Orthodontic treatment is about straightening out crooked and crowded teeth and may use special appliances such as braces.
While most dentists can deal with minor orthodontic problems, they will often refer patients to an orthodontist for more specialist care.
Orthodontists are dentists with additional training and they specialize in the treatment of dental and facial irregularities.
One of the key aspects of orthodontics is straightening teeth and correcting jaw alignment.
This can be done through braces, corrective procedures and other ‘appliances’.
There are two types of braces:
– Removable: The patient can take these out of their mouth at any time
– Fixed Braces: These are worn all the time and have to be removed by a dentist
The length of time a person needs to wear braces varies depending on the condition but most people wear braces for between one and three years.
After the braces are no longer needed, the person usually need to wear a ‘retainer’ for some time that holds teeth in their new position.
Modern braces are much more comfortable than ever and usually require fewer adjustments than older apparatus.
While having a great smile can make you feel good, teeth that are out of alignment can affect the way you feel around others.
Apart from the way you feel, crooked teeth and bite problems can affect your general health as well as your dental health.
Orthodontics is the specialist branch of dentistry that helps deal with bite problems and teeth that are out of alignment.
The best known part of orthodontics is the uses of braces to straighten teeth, sort out spacing issues and resolve other dental problems as well as issues with the jaw and palate.
Dental Braces have three parts – brackets, band and arch wire.
Brackets are attached to each tooth with a band and arch wire runs between the brackets.
This applies pressure over a period of time to straighten teeth which have grown awkwardly.
While the traditional metal braces are still the most common, there is now a wide range of additional options such as ceramic braces, Invisalign braces, self-ligating braces and lingual braces.
When braces have done their job and moved your teeth into the desired position, you will still need to take steps to ensure they don’t move back.
You will normally be given retainers to wear after the braces are no longer needed to ensure the teeth don’t drift to their original position.
The most popular type of retainer uses metal hooks that surround the teeth enclosed by an acrylic plate shaped to fit your palate.
If your teeth are not ready for a retainer, your orthodontist may suggest using a pre-finisher.
This is made of rubber and is similar to a mouth guard. It fixes gaps between the teeth, small spaces between the upper and lower jaw, and other minor problems that braces cannot fix.
A pre-finisher is molded to your teeth with pressure applied. You then be advised to apply pressure to it for a few seconds at a time over a set period until it completes its job.
The retainer and pre-finisher are temporary and can be moved in and out of your mouth.
While regular metal braces with an arch wire and elastics are still the most common, some people opt for a different approach.
One option is lingual or “hidden” braces which are fixed to the inside of the teeth.
They still use brackets and wires, but those brackets and wires cannot generally be seen by others.
Rather than having brackets bonded to the teeth and wires attached with elastic, lingual braces have brackets built for each tooth.
The brackets are fixed to each tooth with cement and then the arch wire is threaded through the brackets.
Pros of Lingual Braces
They look better than regular braces
They work as effectively as regular braces
Food caught in them is not usually visible to others
May be more stable than other options
Cons of Lingual Braces
They can take longer to get used to
The way you talk may be affected, especially at first
Caring for them is more difficult
Cleaning takes longer
They can be more expensive as they have to be custom made and installation is more complex
Dental retainers are devices used to keep teeth in the desired position after braces are removed.
After braces are removed, it still takes some time for teeth to settle into the jawbone and the soft tissue.
Without appropriate action, they might drift back in to the original position.
Retainers can be fixed or removable.
Removable retainers can be taken off to eat or brush your teeth. You wear them all the time for about a year and then wear them only at night for a further period.
Fixed retainers are permanently glued to your teeth and can only be removed by your dentist.
The most common type is Hawley Retainers, which have a plastic base following the shape of your mouth.
This is connected to a wire that wraps around your teeth, keeping them in place.
Essix Retainers are made of clear plastic and some patients prefer them as they cannot be seen but they don’t last as long as Hawley retainers.
As well as keeping your teeth in position after wearing braces, retainers can also be used to correct other minor orthodontic problems that don’t require a full set of dental braces.
For example, they may be used to move just one tooth or correct a slight malocclusion.
Orthodontists are specially-trained dentists who can fix problem with bad bite, crooked teeth and misaligned jaws.
One of the main benefits orthodontic treatment is cosmetic – you get a great smile that makes you look and feel better.
But there are real health benefits of orthodontic treatment too:
You will be able to chew your food easier: Chewing is an important part of digestion. Having crooked teeth means you don’t chew your food properly and could end up with indigestion and other stomach problems.
You will have fewer dental problems: As crooked teeth are hard to clean, you could have more cavities and gum disease than people who have had orthodontic treatment. When your teeth are crooked there is extra stress on your teeth, gums and jaw which can lead to problems later on.
You have less risk of breathing problems: The roof of your mouth can sometimes partially block the air passages in your nose leading to breathing problems and snoring. Orthodontic treatment can reduce this possibility.
Some recent research suggests a link between oral bacteria and cardiovascular disease, where calcium in your mouth is dissolved and deposited in your arteries.
Orthodontics helps prevent oral infections which may have a direct effect on heart disease.
Orthodontics not only gives you a great smile, it can lead to a healthier, happier and longer life.
Here is the truth on some common myths about orthodontists
Myth – Any dentist can straighten my teeth.
Truth – An orthodontist is a specialist at straightening teeth with two or three years of additional training after dental school.
They usually see hundreds of orthodontic patients a year where some family dentists may see only a handful.
Myth – Only children wear braces
Truth – Around 20% of orthodontic patients are adults
Myth – You only need to see an orthodontist for very complex cases.
Truth – Orthodontists have wide experience and deal with all types of orthodontic issue. However, their wide experience means they know exactly what to do in the most complex cases.
Myth – Seeing an orthodontist is more expensive than going to a general dentists for orthodontic treatment.
Truth – They are usually doing different work. An orthodontist offers value as an expert, highly experienced professional with specific training in this field.
Myth – Braces are painful and take years to work
Fact – Like a new pair of shoes, braces are perfectly comfortable after an initial ‘breaking in’ or adjustment period. Braces can get results after just a few months.
Myth – Braces are ugly and embarrassing in business settings.
Truth – Today braces can be made from clear plastic and can be nearly invisible. They can also be mounted on the back side of the teeth so that they are not visible.