Frequently Asked Questions

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How can I manage common orthodontic emergencies and when should I contact the office for help?

Orthodontic emergencies can usually be managed with simple solutions, but it's important to contact our office for guidance and schedule an appointment if needed.

What should I do if a tooth came out?

Call our office immediately if a tooth has been knocked out of alignment. If your tooth is completely out of the socket, do not touch the root part of the tooth. Place it in a clean container with milk. Then go to our office immediately.

What should I do with the wire or bracket poking my cheeks?

If a wire or bracket is poking your cheeks or lips, roll a small ball of orthodontic wax and place it on the part of your braces that is causing discomfort to have some relief. Please do not do DIY fixes such as cutting with a clipper, as it can cause more problems than good.

What should I do with a loose bracket?

If a bracket popped off and is still attached to the wire, roll a ball of orthodontic wax and try to keep it in place. If the bracket is completely removed from your mouth, keep it in a small plastic bag and bring it to our office. Give our office a call to see if an emergency appointment is needed.

What should I do if my teeth are sore after an adjustment or getting braces?

Soreness in teeth is common during the first few days after getting braces or an adjustment. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help alleviate the discomfort. Eating soft foods and rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can also provide relief.

What should I do if a bracket becomes loose or detached from my tooth?

If a loose bracket is still attached to the wire, use a small piece of orthodontic wax to secure it in place temporarily. If the bracket has fallen off completely, keep it in a small plastic bag and bring it to our office. Contact our office to schedule an appointment for the necessary repairs.

What should I do if I lose a separator or spacer between my teeth?

Losing a separator or spacer is not uncommon, and it is typically not an urgent situation. Contact our office to determine if the separator needs to be replaced. In most cases, the separator can be replaced at your next scheduled appointment.

Common Problems

What are the bite problems to watch for in a growing child?

Excessive spacing, crowding, open bite, overbite, crossbite, underbite, overjet, and abnormal tooth eruption. If you see any of these bite problems, bring your child for an orthodontic assessment.

What is an overjet or protruding teeth?

Overjet, also called "buck teeth," is when the upper teeth protrude outward and sit over the bottom teeth.

What is an underbite?

An underbite is when the lower jaw extends too far out from the upper jaw, causing the lower front teeth to sit in front of the upper front teeth. An underbite can cause speech difficulties, problems with eating, and wearing down teeth.

What are spacing issues?

Spacing issues arise when there are gaps between teeth due to missing teeth, small teeth, or a dental arch that is too wide. These spaces can affect the appearance of your smile and increase the risk of gum disease. Orthodontic treatment, such as braces or clear aligners, can effectively close gaps and align your teeth for a healthier, more attractive smile.

What is crowding?

Crowding is a common orthodontic problem that occurs when there is insufficient space in the dental arch for all the teeth. This can cause overlapping, twisted, or misaligned teeth, making it difficult to maintain proper oral hygiene. Braces, clear aligners, or in some cases, tooth extraction, can help resolve crowding and create a more harmonious smile.

What is an overbite?

An overbite is characterized by the upper front teeth excessively overlapping the lower front teeth, sometimes causing the lower teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth. This issue can lead to uneven wear on teeth, speech difficulties, and jaw pain. Orthodontic treatment options, such as braces or clear aligners, can correct an overbite and improve overall dental health.

What is an open bite?

An open bite occurs when the upper and lower front teeth do not touch when the mouth is closed, resulting in a visible gap. This can cause speech difficulties, chewing problems, and increased risk of tooth wear. Braces, clear aligners, or other orthodontic appliances can help close an open bite and create a more functional, attractive smile.

What is a midline discrepancy?

Midline discrepancies occur when the centerlines of the upper and lower teeth do not align properly. This can be caused by missing teeth, uneven growth of the jaw, or other orthodontic issues. Misaligned midlines can affect both the appearance and function of your smile. Treatment options, such as braces or clear aligners, can help correct midline issues and create a more balanced, symmetrical smile.

Dental Care

How often will my orthodontic appointments be?

Most patients will have to see Dr. Starnes every 4-8 weeks or according to the patient’s needs and the appliance used.

How often should I brush my teeth while wearing braces?

It is recommended that you brush your teeth at least twice a day or after every meal while having orthodontic treatment. This will prevent food trapped between teeth from interfering with the movement of your teeth.

Are there any foods I cannot eat while having orthodontic treatment?

While in braces treatment, please avoid sticky, chewy and hard foods that may cause breakage of your brackets or other components of your braces. Fortunately, with Invisalign®, there are no food restrictions – you may eat and drink anything you like for as long as you remove your trays beforehand.

What are some examples of hard foods to avoid?

Examples of hard foods to avoid include nuts, hard taco shells, and apples (unless cut into small pieces).

Can I eat sticky foods while wearing braces?

No, it's best to avoid sticky foods as they can get caught between the wires and brackets. Examples of sticky foods to avoid include candy, toffee, and gum (sugar-free or regular).

Why should I minimize the amount of sugary foods I eat?

Sugary foods can cause tooth decay and other related problems. Examples of sugary foods to minimize include ice cream, cookies, and candy.

Parts of Braces


Brackets are small metal or clear components attached to your teeth. They have slots for wire placement that guide teeth movement.


Metal archwires are the component of braces that connect all the brackets and guide teeth to move to their ideal positions.


O-rings are tiny elastics that hold the archwire in place. They are available in different colors, a fun way to show your creativity or reflect your personality.

Elastics/Rubber bands

Elastics are adjunct components of orthodontic treatment that aids in moving teeth. Dr. Heidi Starnes will show you how to use it and where to place it, as it varies in every case.

Palatal Expander

A palatal expander is used to correct crossbites and excessive crowding. It works by expanding the upper jaw to create more space for all teeth.


Hooks are small metal attachments that can be found on brackets or bands. They serve as attachment points for elastics, coil springs, or other orthodontic appliances. Hooks play a crucial role in applying additional forces needed to correct specific tooth or bite alignment issues.

Coil Springs

Coil springs are small, flexible metal springs placed between brackets on the archwire. They are used to create or maintain space between teeth, either by pushing them apart or preventing them from shifting too close together. Coil springs help ensure proper tooth alignment and spacing during orthodontic treatment.


Bands are strong metal rings that fit around the molars and sometimes premolars, providing a stable anchor for the braces. They are typically cemented in place and serve as a support system for the archwire and other orthodontic components, helping to guide teeth into their proper positions.


Do I need a referral from my general dentist to book an orthodontic consultation?

You may come in for an orthodontic assessment without a dentist's referral.

How do I schedule an appointment?

You may call us at 949-720-8145 or fill in the contact form here to book an appointment for you or your child.

Can I drop my child off for an appointment?

Yes. We understand how busy parents can be during the weekdays, and we are happy to help you make the most of your time. However, we may request to speak with a parent or guardian to update them about the treatment's progress when they return.

Come for the care. Stay for the experience.

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