Frequently Asked Questions

If you can’t find the answers you need below, feel free to contact us for more information.


What can an orthodontist do for me?

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in diagnosing, preventing and treating dental and facial irregularities. Our goal is to align your teeth, lips and jaws, so your facial structure functions properly and looks balanced. To become one of the 6% of dentists who are also qualified orthodontists, it’s necessary to complete several additional years of advanced education in the design, installation and management of various corrective devices.

Why is treatment important?

A great smile can dramatically boost your self confidence, but that’s not the only benefit. Treatment resolves structural problems that can grow more bothersome and costly over time. For example, crooked, crowded teeth are hard to clean. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and even tooth loss. Likewise, a poor bite can impair chewing function and cause chronic pain in the face, neck or head. We can resolve these problems – permanently improving the way you look and feel.

Can I tell by looking at my teeth if I need an orthodontist?

Probably not. Even when your teeth look straight, you may have underlying structural problems. On the other hand, some very visible problems can resolve themselves without intervention. Talking to your general dentist is good start. However, we offer a specialist’s perspective. There’s no charge for an initial exam with Dr. Quinn – even if you don’t need additional services.

What causes orthodontic problems?

Most problems are inherited, but some are the result of accidents, illness or habits (such as thumb sucking and pacifier dependence). Regardless of the cause, many problems involve not only tooth alignment, but also facial development and appearance.

What problems are most common?

We often see these symptoms:

  • Crowding – insufficient room for teeth because they’re large and/or the jaw line is narrow
  • Spacing – gaps form between teeth because they’re small and/or the jaw line is broad
  • Overbite – the lower front teeth bite into the upper palate or into gums behind the upper front teeth
  • Underbite – the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw, so lower front teeth extend beyond upper teeth
  • Overjet – upper front teeth protrude beyond normal contact with lower teeth
  • Open Bite – front teeth don’t touch, forcing back teeth to perform all chewing functions

I have pain in my jaw – can you help?

Most likely, yes. Jaw discomfort and muscle soreness typically stem from chronic teeth grinding or clenching. This can severely wear the teeth and overload jaw joint structures. We’ll diagnose the source of your pain and, if appropriate, provide an appliance to protect your teeth and help your muscles relax. We can also help repair structural damage that has occurred.

I’ve lost some teeth – can you help?

Yes. When you lose a tooth, the remaining teeth tend to drift, tip or shift. Movement can create a poor bite and uneven spacing that must be resolved before other dental work is performed. We can align and stabilize your teeth in their ideal position.

I’ve had crooked teeth for decades – why should I get help now?

We can restore healthy functioning and reverse years of damage from misaligned teeth. When your teeth work better, you’ll feel better – and chances are, you’ll look better, too. No matter what your age, the change can improve your quality of life.

If I don’t get treatment, what’s likely to happen?

When left untreated, many orthodontic problems become worse. The earlier you correct the original problem, the sooner you can avoid the discomfort and cost of dealing with more serious problems that develop over time. Also, without treatment, you’ll never enjoy the self-confidence that comes from improving your appearance.


How does treatment work?

After Dr. Quinn examines your teeth and jaws, he’ll prescribe one or more custom-designed oral appliances. They may be plastic, ceramic or metal, and are either removable or bonded to your teeth in a fixed position. By applying constant, gentle force in a precise direction, these appliances slowly modify your jaw structure or move your teeth to a desired position within their supporting bone. During treatment, you’ll need to visit Dr. Quinn monthly for progress checks and routine adjustments.

How long does treatment last?

Every patient is unique. You may need to wear braces for only 6 months, or as long 30 months. It depends on your age, the severity of your problem, your body’s responsiveness to corrective devices, and your willingness to follow instructions. Before your treatment begins, Dr. Quinn will perform a free exam to determine the best course of action for your situation.

Does treatment hurt?

Today’s technology isn’t considered painful because it’s designed to minimize discomfort. However, when braces are applied or adjusted, your teeth may feel a bit sore or tender for a few days. Also, the inside of your mouth may be irritated for a week or two, as your lips, cheeks and tongue become familiar with the surfaces on your braces. Advil or a similar over-the-counter pain reliever can help you feel your best as your body adapts.

What about invisible braces? Do they work?

Thanks to advanced technology, braces are less visible and more efficient than ever. Dr. Quinn is proficient in the latest techniques, such as “clear” ceramic braces, inside (lingual) braces and Invisalign® plastic removable aligners. He’ll recommend a system for you based on three key factors:

  • Your specific problem
  • Your aesthetic concerns
  • Your budget

Do my teeth need special care while I wear braces?

Success depends deeply on your cooperation. Damaged appliances or poor dental hygiene can increase the cost and duration of treatment and jeopardize your results. You should:

Avoid hard or sticky foods that might harm braces
Carefully clean your teeth and floss daily
Attend all scheduled maintenance appointments
Never forget to wear rubber bands or other appliances as instructed

Also, it’s important to continue visiting your regular dentist (and, if appropriate, your periodontist), to be sure your teeth and gums remain healthy throughout treatment.

When is a retainer required?

Most likely, a retainer will play a vital role in your treatment. When worn as directed after braces are removed, a retainer holds your teeth in place until the bones and gums can properly support them. It ensures that your improvements will last a lifetime.

How long must I where a retainer?

Typically, your teeth will stabilize after wearing a retainer for 12 months. However, in adulthood, teeth sometimes shift. This movement tends to slow as adults approach their 30s, but it can continue throughout life. Even teens with a naturally perfect bite may develop problems as adults. Therefore, once your initial full-time retainer phase is complete, Dr. Quinn may suggest that you prevent further movement by wearing your retainer at night once or twice a month, or by wearing a permanently bonded retainer invisible from the outside.


How should I choose an orthodontist?

To feel confident about your selection, consider these questions: Is your orthodontist…

  • Recommended by your family dentist?
  • A member of AAO (American Association of Orthodontists)?
  • Deeply experienced and able to demonstrate state-of-the-art skills?
  • Willing to provide an initial exam at no risk to you?
  • Available at your convenience?
  • A good listener who explains things carefully?
  • An efficient, organized professional?

How skilled are you with new forms of treatment?

For more than 20 years, Dr. Quinn has been at the forefront of advanced orthodontic technology. In fact, as former a Professor of Orthodontics at UCSF, he believes health professionals should continually expand their knowledge and capabilities. He routinely exceeds the State of California’s recommended hours of continuing education. And as editor of the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists Bulletin, he introduces emerging orthodontic techniques to his peers.

Is your equipment safe?

Yes – you can count on it. We take every precaution to avoid the spread of infection. Specifically, before each appointment, we wear protective gloves and heat-sterilize our instruments at over 400 degrees. Our staff upholds current California OSHA requirements for a safe workplace. And because Dr. Quinn is committed to achieving excellent results while minimizing patient discomfort and treatment time, we rely exclusively on the highest quality orthodontic devices and materials.

How flexible is your schedule?

We respect your time. That’s why our schedule is designed to make treatment convenient for busy adults and children. (See office hours.)

May I speak with other patients you’ve treated?

Certainly. You’ve probably already noticed patient comments on pages throughout this website. Many are happy to help you understand what treatment is like. At your initial exam, we’ll provide you with references at your request.

How much does it cost?

Because orthodontic plans are highly customized, costs can vary greatly. Regardless, your investment today in a healthy smile is likely to cost less than future dental care for more serious problems that will develop without treatment. At the initial exam, we’ll provide a complete estimate, and discuss affordable financing options with you, if needed.

Does insurance cover treatment?

Often insurance policies cover at least some portion orthodontic services. Our treatment coordinator is happy to research your insurance coverage and develop a financial plan that will put your treatment within reach.

How do I get an estimate?

It’s easy. We offer a free initial assessment at your convenience. We’ll carefully examine your teeth and recommend a course of treatment, and we’ll answer any questions you may have. There’s absolutely no obligation to become a patient, but we hope that, after you meet our staff and discuss your needs with Dr. Quinn, you’ll give us an opportunity to help you.

What if I have other questions?

You deserve to make informed decisions about your dental health. Therefore, we’re always happy to provide whatever insight you need – before, during and after treatment. You’re welcome to contact us with questions by phone or email at your convenience.


Am I too old for braces?

No, age isn’t the key. Instead, it’s the health of your gums and underlying bone. In fact, we can correct many adult problems just as easily as we treat children. That’s probably why 3 out of 4 of our patients are adults – and that number is still growing!

How is treatment different for adults?

Adults who didn’t benefit from early orthodontic intervention may face a more complex treatment regimen than children. That’s because:

  • Jaws are no longer growing
  • Gums and bone supporting their teeth may be damaged or diseased
  • Teeth many be worn, damaged or missing from years of neglect

However, although adults pose unique challenges, advancements in orthodontic techniques and technologies make it possible for almost anyone of any age to enjoy a healthier, happier smile.

Can braces work if I have missing teeth?

Yes. When you lose a tooth, adjacent teeth drift into the empty space. Your teeth may not look good or function properly, and your gum health may decline. We can prevent or correct these problems. Furthermore, we can restore proper alignment, so your dentist can replace your missing teeth.

Can I be active while wearing braces?

Braces shouldn’t stop you from enjoying life to its fullest. However, you may need to make some temporary adjustments. For example, if you participate in contact sports, Dr. Quinn can recommend a protective mouthguard. And if you play a musical instrument such as the trumpet, you’ll need to experiment until you adapt.


At what age should my child see an orthodontist?

An early assessment is important so you can take preemptive action, and avoid more difficulties later in life. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that every child be evaluated by age 7. By then, jaws have grown and the presence of some permanent teeth makes it possible to detect existing or future problems – or verify that all seems normal. It’s also a good time to assess the impact of unusual oral habits (such as thumb sucking). Moreover, an early assessment gives parents an opportunity to prepare for future treatment.

What’s the best age to start treatment?

Although treatment can help people at almost any age, the best time for children to begin depends on the problem and the time of diagnosis. Sometimes, very early intervention can avoid more costly, complex and time-consuming procedures in adolescence. (See “Understanding Treatment Strategies” below.)

What are the early symptoms of orthodontic problems?

It’s wise to seek advice from an orthodontist if your child displays these (or other noticeable) problems at any age:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Overlapping teeth
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Protruding top teeth
  • Protruding bottom teeth
  • When chewing, jaw moves off-center
  • When biting, upper teeth cover more than 50% of bottom teeth

How can I help my child prepare for braces?

Because children often fear that braces will cause physical pain or personal embarrassment, it’s important to include them in the diagnosis and treatment planning process. Encourage them to ask questions of you and Dr. Quinn. Nothing should be a mystery. Our entire staff is comfortable talking with children and their families about their questions and concerns before, during and after treatment.

How can I support my child during treatment?

For best results, focus on the lifetime benefits of an improved smile, and the importance of your child’s role in achieving success. Treatment isn’t something that happens to our patients – rather, it’s a process in which they must participate to see the best results. Check-in with children regularly to be sure they understand Dr. Quinn’s instructions and they’re properly caring for their appliances

Can my child participate in sports or play musical instruments?

Absolutely. If your child is involved in contact sports, Dr. Quinn can recommend a protective mouthguard. For children who play wind or brass instruments such as the trumpet, braces clearly pose a challenge. However, with patience and persistence, most children adapt successfully.


What’s Phase I (Interceptive) Treatment?

This aims to minimize or avoid some severe orthodontic problems through early intervention. It typically starts at about age 7, when a young patient’s first few permanent teeth have grown in. Phase I Treatment takes advantage of the early growth spurt and turns a difficult orthodontic problem into a more manageable one. It reduces the need for extractions or surgery, and provides better ongoing treatment options and long-term results. Most Phase I patients also require a Phase II Treatment to achieve an ideal bite.

Who needs Phase I Treatment?

Early intervention is appropriate only for certain problems, such as crossbites, crowding and skeletal defects. Other problems can wait until most or all the permanent teeth are in place.

Can my 7-year-old child delay Phase I (Interceptive) Treatment?

We don’t recommend it. Phase I Treatment focuses on complex problems that require immediate attention. If you delay, treatment options become limited, the process is more difficult, and long-term stability may be compromised. Delays may also lead to future extractions, oral surgery and increase costs.

What’s Phase II Treatment?

Phase II Treatment usually begins at age 12 or 13, after 20-28 permanent teeth are present. Its goal is to help Phase I patients achieve an ideal bite that will serve them well as adults.

What’s Full (Comprehensive) Treatment?

This is another name for orthodontic treatment of permanent teeth. It’s used when a Phase I treatment wasn’t performed.

What’s Extraction Therapy versus Non-Extraction Therapy?

Extraction therapy is a technique where some teeth are removed to make room for the others. This contrasts with non-extraction therapy, where a patient’s jaw is expanded and/or teeth are shaved to create sufficient room.

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