9812 Falls Rd., Suite 118, Potomac, MD 20854

Orthodontics 101

Why Choose an Orthodontic Specialist?

Many orthodontic cases are complex and require definitive diagnosis and treatment planning in order to obtain proper results that last. Board Certified Orthodontists, like Dr. Amy Light, have additional training and degrees beyond their dental education to specialize in orthodontics. Training lasts at least two academic years. By learning about tooth movement and guidance of facial development (dentofacial orthopedics) orthodontists are uniquely trained experts in dentistry to straighten teeth and align jaws. In addition, Dr. Light has special training in pediatric dentistry as well as orthodontics. Her dual specialty gives her added insight on the oral growth and development of children.

Dr. Light is a Diplomate of the Board of Orthodontics. To become a Diplomate, the certification process involves a written examination covering all the essential information on which an orthodontist should be knowledgeable, and a presentation of treated cases to the Board which are evaluated and critiqued. Orthodontists who successfully pass both stages of this rigorous examination are awarded Board Certification. Only a small percentage of orthodontists earn the title of Diplomate.

For more information about the American Association of Orthodontics, click here to visit their website.

Orthodontic Office Visits

Every beautiful smile begins with an initial consultation. The initial orthodontic evaluation takes approximately one hour. Prior to your initial visit you will receive a welcome packet from our office. We will ask you to fill out several forms that will get you acquainted with our office and allow us to get acquainted with you. These forms are also available on our website for your convenience. Please be prepared for your visit by completing all insurance and health information forms that will allow us to begin your child’s dental treatment. If your child has any special needs or concerns please alert us of how to make your child’s visit the best possible.

The complexity of each child’s individual problems will dictate the extent of the initial examination and diagnostic procedures. At the initial exam, photographs of the face and teeth are taken to provide a record of the child’s facial appearance. Several types of x-rays may also be needed to properly diagnose the malocclusion. Most commonly used are panoramic and cephalometric x-rays. Finally, if treatment is warranted, impressions of the teeth are taken. These impression models, photographs and digital x-rays make up the “orthodontic records” and provides a baseline reference of the current relationship of the teeth and jaw.

The orthodontic records provide information for Dr. Light or Dr. Goodman to create a customized treatment plan for you and your child. In addition, all financial information, insurance options, and payment plans will be discussed.

Our team will be glad to answer any questions you may have and we will provide all of the information that you need to determine which treatment is right for you. Please contact our practice to schedule your initial consultation.

Scheduling Appointments

Visiting the orthodontist about every six to ten weeks is an important part of your orthodontic treatment. Our practice will work with you to make sure that your appointments are as convenient as possible. When scheduling appointments, please let us know what days and times work best for you.

Visiting the Dentist during Orthodontic Treatment
It is very important that during your orthodontic treatment you visit your family dentist 3-4 times per year, for teeth cleanings and routine dental checkups. If extra dental care is needed, we will be happy to coordinate with your family dentist to make sure that you are receiving the best care possible.


Digital X-rays

Our office utilizes digital photos and x-rays in the orthodontic evaluation. The photos and X -rays are immediately uploaded in the computer and available for you to see. These enable Dr. Light to provide an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan for your child at the initial visit! The use of digital x-rays minimizes the radiation exposure to child and adults.


Panoramic radiographs are commonly used to analyze the underlying developing structures. The panoramic film shows all the upper and lower teeth, sinuses, developing teeth, and joint and jaw relationships. These are 1st taken in our office when the permanent incisors have erupted (between the ages of 6-9). The panoramic film allows us to examine tooth development and jaw relationships on one film with low dosage of radiation. As your child grows and develops periodic panoramic films will be updated to monitor the proper growth and development of your child’s orofacial structures and to determine the viability of your child’s wisdom teeth.


A cephalometric X-ray of the head shows the teeth, in relation to the jaws and other bones of the skull. By capturing linear and angular measurements of your child’s head, we can determine if their teeth are aligned correctly and even predict the movement of teeth. By examining growth patterns, in relation to your child’s facial profile, we can monitor growth and develop a treatment plan that will best correct any abnormalities.

Child Orthodontics

Orthodontics for Children

While there is no exact age for children to begin orthodontic treatment, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends visiting the orthodontist around age seven.

By this age, most children have a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth, making it easier for the orthodontist to diagnose and correct tooth and jaw problems sooner and without surgery.

Early treatment allows your orthodontist to:

  • Correct and guide the growth of your child’s jaw to help the permanent teeth come in straight
  • Regulate the width of the upper and lower arches
  • Create more space for crowded teeth
  • Avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions later in life
  • Correct thumb-sucking and help improve minor speech problems

For parents, it’s not always easy to know if your child may need orthodontic treatment.

Here are a few things to look for that may mean your child needs to see an orthodontist:

  • Early/late loss of baby teeth
  • If your child has a hard time chewing or biting food
  • Mouth breathing
  • Finger or thumb sucking
  • Crowded, misplaced, or blocked teeth
  • Jaws that pop or make sounds when opening and closing
  • Teeth that come together abnormally, or do not come together at all
  • Jaws and teeth that are not proportionate to the rest of the face
  • Crowded front teeth around age 7 or 8

Please contact our practice to schedule an appointment for an orthodontic evaluation. Early treatment now will give your child a healthy, beautiful smile for the future.

Two-Phase Treatment

What is the advantage of two-phase orthodontic treatment?

Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a specialized process combining tooth straightening and physical, facial changes. The purpose of two-phase treatment is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish the ideal healthy, functional, esthetic result that will remain stable throughout your life.

What if I put off treatment?

Putting off treatment can result in a need for more invasive treatment later in life that may not completely fix your smile. Early treatment is most effective for achieving lasting results.

Phase — One

Your foundation for a lifetime of beautiful smiles
The goal of phase one treatment is to help the jaw develop in a way that will accommodate all of the permanent teeth and to improve the way the upper and lower jaws fit together. Children often exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper arch that is growing too much or is too narrow can be recognized at an early age. If children, over the age of six, are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment. Also, if children around the age of 8 have crowded front teeth, early treatment can avoid the need to extract permanent teeth later.

• Planning now can save your smile later
Children benefit tremendously from early phase treatment. Receiving early treatment
may prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or the need for surgical
procedures to realign the jaws.

• Making records to determine your unique treatment
Orthodontic records will be necessary to determine the type of appliances to be used,
the duration of treatment time, and the frequency of visits. Records consist of models of
the teeth, X-rays, and photographs. During your child’s initial consultation, your doctor
will take records to determine if early treatment is necessary.

Resting Period

In this phase, the remaining permanent teeth are left alone as they erupt. Retaining devices may not be recommended if they would interfere with eruption. It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement. A successful first phase will have created room for permanent teeth to find an eruption path; otherwise, they may become impacted or severely displaced.

Monitoring your teeth’s progress

At the end of the first phase of treatment, teeth are not in their final positions. This will be determined and accomplished in the second phase of treatment. Selective removal of certain primary (baby) teeth may be in the best interest of enhancing eruption during this resting phase. Therefore, periodic recall appointments for observation are necessary, usually on a six-month basis.

Phase — Two

Stay healthy and look attractive
The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. Phase two usually involves full upper and lower braces.

At the beginning of the first phase, orthodontic records were made and a diagnosis and treatment plan established. Certain types of appliances were used in the first phase, to correct and realign the teeth and jaw. The second phase begins when all permanent teeth have erupted, and usually requires braces on all the teeth for an average of 24 months. Retainers are worn after this phase to ensure you retain your beautiful smile.

Adult Orthodontics

It’s Never Too Late To Be Your Best

You’re never too old to benefit from orthodontic treatment. Today, adults make up about one in every five orthodontic patients. Here’s why:

Looking good

Orthodontic treatment can help correct crooked teeth or spaces that you’ve been self-conscious about for years. It can give you the confidence and pride that come with straight teeth and a great smile.

Maintaining dental health

Leaving misaligned teeth untreated may lead to other dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease, as well as abnormal wearing of tooth surfaces and difficulty in chewing. Orthodontic treatment can help you keep good dental health. Advances in orthodontics have made treatment more comfortable and more successful than ever for people of all ages. Orthodontists work with other dental practitioners – general dentists, periodontists, prosthodontists, oral surgeons – to provide a comprehensive approach to your dental health.

Types of Orthodontic Treatment

Damon System

Our office is pleased to offer our patients passive self-ligating Damon System braces. Damon brackets use a slide mechanism to hold the archwire, reducing the amount of pressure exerted on the teeth and allowing the teeth to move more freely, quickly, and comfortably. Thanks to these innovative new braces, achieving your perfect smile can be faster and easier than you ever thought possible!

Tie-less braces — A world without elastic ties
Tie-less braces help reduce the amount of pressure being placed on the tooth and require fewer adjustments because there are no elastics to replace.

The Damon System facilitates healthy tooth movement with complete control. By combining tie-less brackets and high-tech archwires, we can minimize discomfort and create beautiful smiles that last a lifetime.

Braces are the beginning, but the system makes the smile!
The Damon System is not just about revolutionary braces and wires; it’s a whole new way of treating patients!


Damon braces are designed to be discreet, comfortable, and easy to keep clean. Without the elastic ties, which attract and collect plaque, Damon braces make dental hygiene easy during treatment. Plus, the Damon System is available in clear brackets for patients who want a great smile without sacrificing aesthetics.

Treatment Time

While the time needed in braces will vary from case to case, treatment time with the Damon System is typically much faster than with conventional braces. Also, far fewer appointments are required during treatment, making your Damon experience convenient and hassle-free.


Consider Invisalign to get the beautiful straight teeth you’ve always wanted — without braces. A consultation with your doctor can determine if Invisalign is right for you.

What is it?

Invisalign uses a series of invisible, removable, and comfortable aligners that no one can tell you’re wearing. So, you can smile more during treatment as well as after. Invisalign is made with 3D computer imaging technology and has been proven effective. More than 70% of orthodontists in the US and Canada are certified to treat with Invisalign.

Why would I want it?

Not only are the aligners invisible, they are removable, so you can eat and drink what you want while in treatment. Plus, brushing and flossing are no problem. They are also comfortable, with no metal to cause mouth abrasions during treatment. And no metal and wires usually means you spend less time in your doctor’s office getting adjustments. Invisalign also allows you to view your own virtual treatment plan when you start so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete.

How does it work?

You wear each set of aligners for about two weeks, removing them only to eat, drink, brush, and floss. As you replace each aligner with the next in the series, your teeth will move — little by little, week by week — until they have straightened to the final position your doctor has prescribed. You’ll visit our practice about once every six weeks to ensure that your treatment is progressing as planned. Total treatment time averages 9-15 months and the average number of aligners worn during treatment is between 18 and 30, but both will vary from case to case.
SPEED System
The SPEED System™ SPEED Braces
Our practice is a SPEED Braces provider. Quicker treatment time, no elastics, easier to keep clean, smaller bracket size, the most comfort possible – SPEED braces have revolutionized orthodontics, and are available to you as an alternative to traditional metal braces.

How do SPEED braces work?

Using an innovative spring clip to straighten teeth, SPEED braces apply a gentle, continuous force to align teeth into the proper position. SPEED braces don’t require any elastic or bands, resulting in more comfort, fewer appointments, and faster treatment time. SPEED braces are also smaller than traditional metal brackets, making them easier to clean and less noticeable. You can expect more precise results with a SPEED braces treatment and a beautiful smile that will last forever!

What makes SPEED braces a better choice for my smile?

SPEED braces may be an excellent option for your orthodontic treatment. To learn more about the SPEED System SPEED braces, schedule an appointment with our doctor. We can help answer any questions that you might have and help you choose the best treatment for your needs. Start smiling with SPEED braces.


Temporary Anchorage Device

Orthodontic movement of a tooth includes three components: the active tooth (the tooth we want to move); the force module, (which could be a combination of a spring, a wire, or elastic); and an anchor for the opposite end of the force. TADs or temporary anchorage devices deal with the third component.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) defines anchorage as “Resistance to activation force. Anchorage may come from any of the following sources: intraoral-teeth; bone and soft tissue; extraoral-cervical, occipital, and cranial.” Extraoral anchorage refers to different types of headgear.

Of the anchorage categories listed by the AAO, teeth are the most commonly used anchor. While teeth are convenient anchors, they present significant limitations when used as anchors. The major limitations are:

  • Stability – when a tooth is used as the anchor, the anchor tooth moves as well.
  • Anchor tooth movement is usually undesirable.
  • Vector or position – when a tooth is used as an anchor, force application is limited by the healthy positions of teeth.

According to the definitions of the AAO, bone anchorage is often the best form. In the past, the use of bone anchorage was limited due to expense and complexity of placement. However, newer Temporary Anchorage Devices are safer and less expensive. A TAD is a device fixed to bone specifically for the purpose of providing orthodontic anchorage and is removed at the completion of treatment.

TADs can:

  • Stabilize a tooth being used as an anchor
  • Eliminate the need to use a tooth as an anchor
  • Provide an anchorage point where tooth anchorage is not normally available

Orthodontics with TADs can:

  • Reduce orthodontic treatment time by one third
  • Eliminate the need for a headgear
  • Provide a more ideal finish
  • Allow limited tooth movement in preparation for a bridge, crown or implant without braces
  • Close most open bites without surgery
  • Eliminate the need for rubber bands

A TAD is an implant that is fixed to bone for the purpose of providing an absolute anchorage point for movement of teeth. TAD’s are removed and discarded at the end of orthodontic treatment.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are made of clear materials and are therefore less visible on your teeth than metal braces. For this reason, ceramic braces are used mainly on older teenagers and adult patients who have cosmetic concerns. While they are visually less prominent, they do require more attention to oral hygiene as ceramic braces are larger and are more brittle than their metal counterparts. For these reasons, ceramic braces tend to be used more on upper front teeth than on lower teeth.

Removable Appliances | Elastics (Rubber Bands)

Wearing elastics (or rubber bands) improves the fit of your upper and lower teeth. Wear rubber bands as instructed and remember that the rubber bands work far more efficiently if they’re worn as prescribed.

Herbst® Appliance

The Herbst® appliance reduces overbite by encouraging the lower jaw forward and the upper molars backward. This fixed appliance is used mostly for younger, growing children and is worn for about 12-15 months.

Palatal Expander

The palatal expander “expands” (or widens) your upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on your upper molars each time an adjustment is made. Your orthodontist will instruct you about when and how to adjust your expander. When you achieve the desired expansion, you will wear the appliance for several months to solidify the expansion and to prevent regression.


Retainers may be removable or fixed. They hold your teeth in their new, correct positions after your teeth have been straightened. Your orthodontist will instruct you on how to care for your retainer and about the duration of the wear. Wearing your retainer as directed is crucial to prevent regression of your treatment.

Separators or Spacers

Separators are little rubber doughnuts that may be placed between your teeth to push them apart so that orthodontic bands may be placed during your next appointment. The separators will be removed before we place the bands. Separators do not mix well with sticky foods, toothpicks, or floss.

Life with Braces

Foods to avoid | Eating with Braces
What can you eat? For the first day or so, stick to soft foods. Avoid tough meats, hard breads, and raw vegetables. Before long, you’ll be able to bite a cucumber again. But you’ll need to protect your orthodontic appliances when you eat for as long as you’re wearing braces.

Foods to Avoid

  • Chewy foods: bagels, hard rolls, licorice
  • Crunchy foods: popcorn, ice, chips
  • Sticky foods: caramels, gum
  • Hard foods: nuts, candy
  • Foods you have to bite into: corn on the cob, apples, carrots
  • Chewing on hard things (for example, pens, pencils or fingernails) can damage the braces. Damaged braces will cause treatment to take longer.


When should my child first see an orthodontist?

Age 7 is a good time for your child’s first orthodontic appointment. An early orthodontic examination when both permanent and baby teeth are present will detect or intercept problems early and help ensure maximum dental and facial development for your children. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to wait for all the permanent teeth to come in to solve orthodontic problems. In fact, some treatment options are lost once bony growth has stopped.

What are some typical problems that might require early orthodontic treatment?

  • Thumb, finger and tongue habits that distort the shape of the upper jaw
  • Severely crowded teeth
  • Excess spaces between teeth
  • Deep bites, overbites or underbites
  • Severely protruding teeth (especially at risk on the playground)
  • Extra or missing teeth

For more information please visit the American Association of Orthodontists at https://www.aaoinfo.org/

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