How Long Will My Child Wear Braces?

child with braces

Your child will go through lots of smiles before they reach adulthood. So if you’re worried about crooked or overcrowded teeth, it might be time to start thinking about orthodontics. But when do kids get braces?

Nearly 4 million kids and teens start orthodontic treatment every year. For most kids, that means braces—usually between the ages of 9 and 14. Getting braces is a rite of passage for kids today! But the fun doesn’t last forever. Eventually, the braces come off, revealing the beautiful adult smile that will help them conquer the world!

How long will my child wear braces?

Every patient is different, and only your orthodontist can tell you for sure how long your child will wear braces. But in most cases, treatment with braces lasts 1-2 years.

What affects how long my child will wear braces?

How long your child wears braces will depend on how much adjusting needs to be done. For kids with only a slight alignment issue, treatment with braces can be relatively quick – sometimes under a year. For more complex cases, where the bite is severely misaligned, the airway doesn’t open properly or the palate itself is malformed, treatment can take much longer.

Is Invisalign faster than braces?

In general, yes, Invisalign treatment moves teeth into their goal position in less time than it takes for traditional braces to do the same thing. This is because of the way Invisalign puts pressure on the teeth to move them.

With traditional braces, each tooth is individually pulled into its correct position, which generally takes 1-2 years. But with Invisalign and other clear aligners, the force that moves the teeth into position is a “pushing” motion, which works more quickly than traditional braces. Invisalign treatment generally takes from 6-18 months to straighten teeth.

Is there anything my child can do to shorten the time they wear braces?

Not really, but there are things your child can do to make sure their treatment doesn’t last longer than it should! Following your orthodontist’s instructions to the letter is the key to finishing treatment on schedule (or even sooner). That means coming in for appointments as scheduled, wearing removable aligners or bands for the full-time prescribed each day, and avoiding sticky/hard/crunchy foods like hard candy or popcorn that can pop brackets off and increase treatment time.

How long does treatment last once braces come off?

Once your child gets their braces off, they’ll need to wear their retainer 24/7 for the first month, any time they are not eating or brushing their teeth. The first month after debonding is when teeth are most likely to shift out of position, so wearing the retainer is crucial during this time!

After that first month, your orthodontist will decide if it’s time for your child to shift into night-only retainer wearing. Once your child is all clear to wear their retainer only at night, that practice is forever! Maintaining the proper tooth alignment is a lifetime commitment because teeth can shift at any time as we age.


Other questions about braces? Explore your options and contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Top 4 Ways to Help Your Children Take Care of Their Teeth

parents and children brushing

Oral health begins at a young age and carries with us into adulthood. When it comes to educating kids about their teeth, the struggle comes with kids understanding the importance of taking special care of their teeth and how their oral health affects them in the long run! When it comes to educating and taking care of your child’s pearly whites, here are our top four ways, with input from children’s dentists, to help.

Lead By Example

That’s right – make it interactive. Kids learn by others showing them how to do activities, and brushing along with flossing is no different. Take five minutes after meals to demonstrate proper brushing technique, to floss adequately between teeth, and don’t forget to make it fun. Maybe make up a rhyme about how to keep your teeth healthy.

Give Them Control

Once it’s time to graduate to a “big kid toothbrush” load up the car and head to the grocery store. Take a little stroll down the toothpaste and toothbrush aisle and let your child pick out something they love. By giving your child a choice in a color, size, or taste they like, you’re giving reign to them getting excited about something important.

Learn About Foods

By learning which foods are better for teeth than others, you’ll be able to teach both about healthy teeth and healthy bodies. Educating them about how sugar, sodas, fruit juices, pasta, potato chips, and many more should be eaten sparingly and brushing regularly will help build knowledge.

Reward System

Think about how a reward system might be beneficial! Whether it be small (like stickers on a poster) or a little bigger (a new toy at the end of the month if they brush and floss everyday), having healthy motivators will push a child towards excellence as they take on the extra responsibility of oral health.

But don’t forget that children are still in the process of learning how to effectively care for their teeth. Incorporating fluoride treatment for teeth can provide your child with the strong defense they require to tackle cavities while they continue to learn proper dental care techniques.


Proper education will take a child far, and brushing and flossing everyday is no different. By giving them the key to success starting young, you’re preparing them for a bright and sparkly future.


The Benefits of Fluoride

flouride toothpaste and brushOver the years, there have been debates over the need and effectiveness of fluoride. While some choose to avoid it, others see the benefits. A few common, and disproven, myths include fluoride not being natural, fluoride treatment for kids will reduce children’s test scores, and fluoride causing cancer. Of course, these simply are not true.

In fact, this mineral is incredibly helpful in the body: especially for teeth. Are you aware of how it can impact your overall health? Let this be your crash course into the benefits of fluoride in your teeth, body, and overall wellness!

First, fluoride is natural. That’s right, it’s a mineral found in the environment all around us. It can easily be found in rocks, water, and soil, and it’s found in the earth’s crust. In fact, a lot of foods we eat will contain a small amount of fluoride, and it occurs naturally in the body, too (known as calcium fluoride).

This mineral compound helps the human body prevent cavities by strengthening the tooth enamel. As we’ve touched on before, the enamel is constantly under lots of pressure and provides our teeth safety by keeping out harmful bacteria. Sometimes our bodies can’t quite catch up trying to protect our teeth, and fluoride comes in during remineralization and assists our enamel by binding it to teeth even stronger than before.

A lot of people ask can fluoride protect them from white stain on teeth?

Yes, fluoride can help protect teeth from developing white stains. Regular use of fluoride, whether through toothpaste, mouthwash, or professional treatments, can strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to acid attacks that lead to white spots or stains on the teeth.

Finally, one of the best features of fluoride is it works 24/7. It combines with the saliva in the mouth so teeth are constantly getting a nice fluoride bath to protect against harmful bacteria. How does your body get the best fluoride? Drink tap water, brush with fluoride toothpaste, and have your dentist apply fluoride to your teeth directly.

While some may be wary about fluoride, don’t fear. Small doses of fluoride in the water have been researched and declared by the CDC as one of the “Ten Great Public Health Achievements” of the 20th century. With properties like rebuilding weakened enamel, reversing early signs of tooth decay, and preventing the growth of pesky oral bacteria, it’s no wonder how fluoride benefits your overall well-being.


How Sugar Affects Your Oral Health

Sugar and sweets teeth

You may be familiar with the old adage: “Don’t eat all that sugar, it’ll rot your teeth out.” And maybe that isn’t as far off as we were once led to believe.

Sugar is known to cause tooth decay, but very few are aware of how this can take place. After all, it isn’t necessarily the sugar causing tooth decay but the bacteria in your mouth. One you eat a cookie, a piece of cake, or candy, the bacteria are ready to feast!

As the bacteria eat the leftover sugars, acids are produced and slowly destroy the protective coating, tooth enamel, covering your teeth. The acids slowly cause holes in your teeth which can lead to cavities, pain, and frustration.

Not only are your teeth at risk, but so are your gums. Excessive sugar intake can lead to gum disease in the mouth which can advance quickly if left untreated.

How can you watch out for your sugar intake? First, be aware of how much sugar you consume in a single day. From protein bars, sodas, lattes, and your Acai bowl, sugar is in just about everything, even if it’s only a small amount.

Natural sugars exist in fruit and dairy products, added sugars are in syrups in sodas, chocolate, and ice cream, and free sugars are in honey and fruit juices. Both added and free sugars do not provide essential nutrients to the body and add extra calories along with extra risk for tooth decay.

Not only can sugar harm teeth and gums, it can harm your brain with impaired learning as well as memory loss. Noteworthy is sugar causing anxiety, irritability, wrinkles, early aging, and can contribute to heart disease and diabetes.

So how do you prevent yourself from going off the deep end with sugars and ensure good dental care? First, know your daily limit and stick with it. By understanding how much you should be eating, you can limit your extra eating and drinking. Next, cook at home and limit your take out and junk food. If you stick to cooking at home, you quickly realize what is going in your body and can curb unwanted habits.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be easily able to prevent tooth decay and stay actively healthy in your oral hygiene and physical health!

Causes of Tooth Enamel Erosion

woman brushing teeth

Your teeth are tough; really tough. In fact, the outer layer of your teeth consists of enamel which is the hardest tissue in the human body. It’s even tougher than your bones. Enamel protects your teeth against cavities, sensitivity and and different chemicals, and even white spots on teeth. However, since we use our teeth every day, they can be prone to damage which is otherwise known as enamel erosion. The result is usually painful but can be treated by a dentist.

Symptoms include but are not limited to cracks in teeth, discoloration, small indents in the teeth (known as cups), and increased sensitivity to temperatures, foods/drinks, and textures. If left untreated, enamel erosion can lead to various complications such as stained teeth, increased tooth decay, rough edges on or around your teeth, and even fractured teeth. Particularly with braces, poor brushing coupled with excess exposure to acidic foods can lead to enamel discoloration when the brackets are removed

The main causes of this erosion come from acids found in food and drinks we eat or drink on a daily basis. Too many acidic substances play into your overall oral health. Some foods and drinks that are culprits of erosion include starchy foods (such as bread), acidic foods (like coffee), sugary foods (candy is a culprit!), sodas, and excessive vitamin C found in citrus fruits, particularly lemons. That’s right, your afternoon sandwich, your extra large Coke, or your ravenous cravings for candy aren’t doing you any favors…

But how do you stop enamel erosion in its tracks? First, diet is important! If possible, try to avoid too much exposure to acidic food – the less soda and candy, the better! Second, regular cleanings and fluoride treatments with your dentist can help. In addition to preventing cavities, fluoride also helps on a microscopic level, bonding to the enamel and making it more resistant to erosion. If you have reached a point where enamel erosion is severe, your dentist may be able to “bond” or cover the eroded areas by adding tooth-colored material.

That said, prevention is the best policy. By treating enamel erosion before it starts, you’ll have a much better chance of it not progressing. Brush your teeth after every meal (especially after acidic or starchy foods)prevent excess build up and see your dentist regularly.

National Children’s Health Month

smiling child

Nothing can affect a child’s wellness, lifestyle, and quality of life more than proper oral hygiene. Children with poor oral health tend to miss school more often and make lower grades than their counterparts. A good smile lasts a lifetime, and it’s important to dedicate time every day to take care of your teeth!

Did you know that tooth decay is the most common chronic condition affecting U.S. children? By the time a child is eight years old, nearly half have some visible signs of decay on their teeth. While tooth decay can be frustrating to deal with, it’s also preventable with proper oral hygiene, and taking care of teeth can start in infancy.

For infants, taking care of gums and teeth while they’re young is key to maintaining natural habits as they age. Start by rubbing a wet cloth gently over their gums before teeth begin to surface. Once teeth begin to form, start gently flossing between teeth to avoid food buildup.

Since most children have around twenty teeth by the age of three, learning to take care of those chompers will help. Start by using regular adult fluoride toothpaste once your child turns six. Fluoride is perfectly safe and aids teeth strength while preventing tooth decay. Your dentist may also recommend dental sealants for a school-aged child. These are thin, plastic coatings that adhere to the chewing surfaces of teeth and prevent cavities from forming. They also assist in stopping plaque build-up between each tooth.

Now for heading to the dentist. Typically, a child needs a checkup every 6 or 12 months. Visiting a dentist will help make sure teeth are staying in line as well as alert your dentist when braces are needed. These visits will additionally allow your child to feel more relaxed while getting to know this new environment.

National Children’s health month opens up a wealth of resources and allows parents to get more involved and active in the health of their kids. It’s a great way for our practice to inform and engage parents as they try to make the world a better place for the kiddos!

Loving the Smile You Wear

Smiling woman

A smile can say a lot of things about a person.

Besides being a confidence booster, smiling increases your immune system, relieves stress, and can help you get in front of people in the event of a promotion. Since a beautiful smile is a key component of so much of life, it makes sense to take care of those pearly whites starting at a young age. In fact, good dental hygiene starts before a child’s first tooth ever appears!

When teeth first start pushing through the gums, be sure to brush with an infant toothbrush and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste. A good rule of thumb is when a child’s teeth begin to touch, start flossing! Supervise children who are younger than eight as they are likely to swallow toothpaste as they’re learning to brush and spit out the toothpaste.

Some kids have either an overbite or underbite as they grow up and will need braces. Some of this is due to losing baby teeth too quickly or bad habits like sucking on their thumb. At an annual dental appointment, your dentist will be the first to notice a problem with teeth whether teeth are crowded or too spaced out. There isn’t a set age for braces, and some people even have them when they’re adults! Visiting a dental professional for an evaluation will help you decide when the best time to visit the orthodontic office. Around the age of seven is a good starting point although most people will not need treatment starting then.

A great smile lasts for years to come. Apart from looking great, smiling encourages more people to trust you and engages people with what you’re saying. People like it when others smile since they appear warm, kind, and more approachable than those who don’t smile. Like mentioned earlier, smiling enhances your overall health by releasing endorphins that can improve your mood!

Preparing for good oral hygiene starting young will boost the chances of developing a bright and beautiful smile. Of all the things you’re able to put on, being able to wear a wonderful smile is by far the most outstanding.

As orthodontists, we love our ability to help people improve their smiles. Come see us anytime for an evaluation!

What is Suresmile and How Does it Compare to Traditional Orthodontics?

Back in 2007, Drs. Rathburn and Stewart began using a technology that would come to revolutionize our office and other offices across the globe – Suresmile. What is Suresmile and how has it helped us develop as orthodontists? Well, there’s a lot so buckle up!

Perhaps it’s best to describe how traditional orthodontics works first to compare. Basically, the braces are placed on the teeth and we spend the initial part of treatment “leveling and aligning” (ie straightening). Depending on how crowded the teeth are this could be quick or a longer process. Once the teeth are straight we may have patients wear rubber bands while we begin what’s called “detailing.” Usually this involves us looking for any remaining errors in the alignment of the teeth, marking the wire, and then using some orthodontic pliers to make subtle bends in the wire to help move the teeth. This is where the “art” of orthodontics comes into play. Obviously there is some inefficiency in this method because if a bend is too big or too small a tooth may move too much or too little. As orthodontists we have always been after ways to improve our efficiency.


Enter Suresmile. With Suresmile, once the teeth have been generally aligned, a digital model of the teeth is created with the brackets on. The orthodontist then uses this information and can digitally move the teeth into the ideal final position. From there, a fully customized archwire is actually bent by a robotic arm (at labs in Dallas and Germany) and sent back to the orthodontist. We then place the wire and Voila! Now the teeth can move more predictably to their final position. No wire bending and no more wasted time! This effectively relates to both improving our results and cutting down on our treatment times. Now, moving the teeth is less of an “art” and more of a science. Check out The Suresmile Wire-Bending Robot in Action!


Since 2007, Suresmile has grown into a fully digital orthodontic platform. We can now use Suresmile for making our in-office aligners (so we can cut down on the cost to our patients) as well as other aspects of orthodontics like lingual braces, indirect bonding, restorative simulations, 3-D printing etc. In addition, the use of Cone Beam – CT scanning allows us to more accurately see the roots of the teeth and the bone that surrounds them; very important factors in orthodontic treatment planning.

At AOS, every comprehensive patient is treated with Suresmile. We don’t pick and choose because we feel that this technology truly helps us improve our skills as orthodontists and we feel every patient ought to experience that same level of care.


Stay tuned for next time when Dr. Tyler discusses expanders and when they are necessary! Please feel free to send any questions or feedback to Dr. Tyler at

What’s So Special About AOS?

AOS photo
Okay, Okay – I know I am way behind schedule but here goes!

What’s So Special About AOS?

It’s always tough to “toot your own horn” as they say. We try to let the way we treat our patients and our results speak for themselves. We know and respect many other orthodontists all across Atlanta and we love the opportunity to learn from them as well. There are always new and different ways to approach orthodontics. As such, each orthodontic practice is unique in its approach. Here are a few things that we would like to highlight at Atlanta Orthodontic Specialists:

1. Technology

Our mission statement at AOS is “Excellence Through Innovation” and it says so right on the front page of our website. We were one of the first practices to utilize Invisalign as well as the first provider of Suresmile in the Atlanta area. We have invested heavily in both intraoral scanning (no more impressions!) as well as 3-D printing. We now have three 3-D printers on-site at our main office. So what does all of this technology do and what, more importantly, does it do for our patients? First of all, it gives our patients options. Through technology, we can offer more choices to our patients and allow them more freedom in how they choose to approach their orthodontic care. Whether it is traditional braces, lingual brackets, surgical treatment, Invisalign, or even customized “in-house” aligners, we can do it! Second, particularly with technologies such as Suresmile, we have drastically increased our efficiency. Now, we can offer more effective and more efficient treatment times than we were ever able to before. That translates to shorter treatment times and better results for our patients.


2. Family

We still consider ourselves a family practice. Not only are three of our doctors actually a family (Dr. Tyler and his mom Dr. Melisa Rathburn and stepfather Dr. Michael Stewart) but our other doctors might as well be! Dr. Chris Brady comes from a dental family himself. His father, Dr. Gordon Brady is an oral surgeon in Atlanta and they both have been close personal friends of the practice for many years. Drs. Kent Starling and Mark Sanchez were both former students of Dr. Stewart’s in his years teaching at Emory. We think being a family helps us better take care of the families we treat!

3. Community

All of our doctors have lived, grown up, worked, and practiced in Atlanta for many years. We truly love the opportunity to give back to both our patients and the dental community. Whether it be school sponsorships or events, AOS is there! At the dedication of our new AOS Learning center, we honored three of the ”godfathers” of orthodontics and dentistry in Atlanta, Drs. Walt Sheffield, Ike Rolader, and Charlie Smith with paintings specifically commissioned for the event. All have since passed but were critical mentors to Drs. Rathburn and Stewart as well as many others. In fact, Dr. Smith’s name is still listed on our doctor’s wall from the days that he and Dr. Stewart practiced together. We love the dental community in Atlanta and honoring the legacy of those who have come before is important as we look towards the future.



Stay tuned next time to hear about what Suresmile is and what it can do for our patients!

Please feel free to send any questions or feedback to Dr. Tyler at

When Are “Early Braces” Needed?

kid with braces
Why Do I See So Many Young Kids With Braces on Nowadays?

We get this question a lot. It seems that every child is being recommended for orthodontic treatment at earlier and earlier ages. Not only that but then they are having to get braces again when they are older! To break this down, it is important to understand the difference between early “Phase I” orthodontics and later “Phase II” orthodontics.

At the beginning of orthodontics, being a new specialty, there was little understanding of when patients should get treatment. Most times the answer was “Just wait until all the permanent teeth come in.” But over time it became apparent that this was not always the best way to treat each case.

As we discussed in the last post, the AAO recommends that your child see an orthodontist at age 7. The bigger question is why?

Put simply, by age 7-8 most patients will have their front upper and lower incisor teeth as well as their permanent “6-year” molars. From this point on there is usually a gap of 3 years where no more baby teeth will be lost (though this can be highly variable). When we are evaluating patients this early, we are looking to answer the question:

“Is there an issue present right now that is going to get progressively worse over time?”

If the answer to this question is “yes,” then it is likely that the orthodontist will recommend some version of “Phase I” treatment. Another more proper term for Phase I treatment is “Interceptive Orthodontic Treatment.” We are literally “intercepting” problems before they become too difficult to manage.

When considering the question “can bad teeth cause health problems,” we evaluate some of the following (among many others):

1. Are all of the remaining teeth underneath the surface going to come in properly?

2. Is there room for the remaining teeth?

3. Is there a major fit issue like a crossbite that requires treatment?

4. What will the teeth likely look like down the road?

5. Is there any evidence of chipping or wear of the teeth?

6. Are there significant disturbances in the growth pattern?

It isn’t that treatment is impossible at a later date if early treatment isn’t done – in fact, Phase I treatment many times isn’t indicated at all. But, certain problems can become so difficult to treat in one step that treatment can extend for a much longer time and the desired results are much more difficult or impossible to achieve.

It is also important to note that Phase I treatment started at an early age cannot fix ALL of the issues that we see – mainly because not all teeth are present when this is recommended. Generally speaking, orthodontic treatment is recommended again at a later date when all the teeth are present. This is also known as Phase II treatment and usually happens around age 11-14.

Stay tuned next time to hear about what makes our AOS practice different!

Please feel free to send any questions or feedback to Dr. Tyler at