There is nothing more satisfying to a skilled and ethical professional than a well informed consumer. People who are not trained in dentistry, and perhaps some who are, sometimes find orthodontics to be confusing or mysterious. But since it all seems simple to me, maybe I can help.
Is there anything about orthodontic treatment that you are curious about? Are you baffled, bothered, or bewildered about things you have heard about orthodontics? Are you simply curious about what various appliances do, or what they look like, or anything else related to orthodontics?
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Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Braces, Aligners and other appliances/devices are used to make these corrections by moving teeth and bones.
Like the different specialists in medicine (such as cardiologists, oncologists, dermatologists, etc.), there are specialists in dentistry. Orthodontists are dental specialists who dedicate their lives to correcting misaligned teeth and jaws. Teeth and sometimes faces are permanently changed by orthodontic treatment; therefore, it is very important that the treatment be done properly. A certified orthodontic specialist not only completed dental school but continued on for an additional 2 – 3 years to become an expert in Orthodontics to move teeth, align them with the jaws making sure the jaws develop properly and work with you to help make sure the teeth remain in their new positions. It is important to note that most orthodontic insurance plans assist in the cost for braces only once in a lifetime. Make sure to have an orthodontic specialist do it right the first time.
It is most important to examine your child’s teeth as the permanent teeth grow in. Although children mature at different rates, there are some averages for permanent tooth arrival. Some signs that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic examination:
1) early or late loss of baby teeth
2) difficulty chewing or biting
3) crowding, malpositioned, or blocked out teeth
4) jaws that make sounds
5) biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
6) teeth that do not meet at all
7) jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face
8) finger sucking or pacifier habits continued beyond the age of six
9) top front teeth stick out, protrude or are “bucked”
10) baby teeth that do not grow to full height like their neighbors
11) top front teeth grow in behind the bottom front teeth
12) top front teeth cover more than 25% of the bottom front teeth when the back teeth are biting together
13) weak chin or prominent chin
14) neighboring teeth shifting into bad positions when a tooth between them has been removed
15) centers of the top and bottom front teeth don’t line up
16) teeth wearing unevenly
17) jaws that shift off center when the teeth bite together
18) excessive spaces between teeth that persist after the top permanent canine teeth appear
19) embarrassing teeth or smile often hidden by hands
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an initial consultation no later than age 7. At this age there are enough permanent teeth that have come in and enough jaw growth has occurred, that problems can be identified. Early consultation allows the orthodontist to determine the optimum time for treatment to begin. Many parents and some family dentists assume that they must wait until a child has all of his or her permanent teeth, only to find out that treatment would have been much easier if started earlier. Early treatment can eliminate the need for more drastic measures. Depending on the case, optimal results have been compromised and are unattainable once the face and jaws have finished growing. With proper timing, children may not have to endure years of embarrassment. Adults can be treated at any age as long as the mouth more specifically the gums and bone holding the teeth are in healthy condition.
The reason that treatment is needed. The optimal time for starting treatment. The treatment approach that will be used. The estimated length of treatment. The expected appearance when treatment is completed. The past success rate of the recommended treatment with other patients. The pros and cons of treatment. The treatment cost and financing options. The possible outcome if nothing is done.
Early treatment provides the opportunity to:
1) guide the growth of the young jaw bones creating a better environment for those new emerging permanent teeth
2) guide incoming teeth into optimal positions
3) regulate the width of the jaws
4) lower the risk of trauma to prominent front teeth
5) correct harmful sucking habits
6) reduce the likelihood of teeth becoming stuck or impacted under the gums
7) preserve or gain space for arriving permanent teeth
8)Creating room for crowded, erupting teeth
9)Creating facial symmetry through influencing jaw growth
10)Reducing the need for tooth removal
11)Reducing treatment time with braces
By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite, and the adult incisors also erupt. During this time, an orthodontist can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth relationships. For example, the presence of erupting incisors can indicate possible overbite, open bite, crowding or gummy smiles. Timely screening increases the chances for an incredible smile.
When teeth are malaligned or crooked they can trap food particles that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Researchers at the Baylor College of Dentistry, found that malocclusions interfere with the chewing ability to break down foods which affects digestion and overall health. An improper bite can also aid in the development of TMJ disfunction causing popping and clicking sounds from the jaw joint. Finally, poorly arranged teeth detract from your smile which is one of the more important features contributing to facial beauty. You only have one chance to make that first impression!
Braces use steady, gentle pressure over time to move teeth into their proper positions. You may not think there is any significant movement happening, but in fact, every moment of your orthodontic treatment, there’s something happening in your mouth. As long as you have your braces on there is change in the mouth. Brackets placed on your teeth and the main arch wire that connect them are the two main components. The brackets are specialized metal or ceramic pieces affixed to each tooth acting as the wire holder which facilitates the intricate movement of the teeth. The arch wire is in a U shape and is interlaced into the brackets guiding the teeth to return to the wires original U shape as it applies light pressure to actually move your teeth to an optimal bite and final outcome. Picture your tooth resting in your jaw bone. With pressure on one side from the arch wire, the bone on the other side gives way. The tooth moves. New bone grows in behind. It may look like nothing is happening but we’re getting movement. Thanks to new technological advances in orthodontic mechanics treatment can happen at a much faster pace than the ‘old school’ Orthodontics from when we were kids.
Orthodontics is not merely for improving the aesthetics of the smile; orthodontic treatment improves bad bites (malocclusions). Malocclusions occur as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment. Malocclusions affect the way you smile, chew, clean your teeth, or feel about your smile.
According to studies by the American Association of Orthodontists, untreated malocclusions can result in a variety of problems. Crowded teeth are more difficult to properly brush and floss, which may contribute to tooth decay and/or gum disease. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping and traumatic injuries. Crossbites can result in unfavorable growth and uneven tooth wear. Openbites can result in tongue-thrusting habits and speech impediments. Ultimately, orthodontics does more than make a pretty smile—it creates a healthier, happier, more confident you.