Orthodontic treatment can improve the appearance, health and function of the teeth and jaws. It is the branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems in the alignment of teeth and jaws.
Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment
Appearance: people are very aware of how their teeth look to others. An attractive smile can play an important role in enhancing self-confidence.
Cleaning of teeth: teeth that are crowded and overlapping can be difficult to clean, a major factor in teeth decay. Teeth with good alignment are much easier to brush and keep clean, reducing gum disease and decay.
Chewing: your ability to chew food is best when your occlusion (bite) is correct.
Speech problems: some people have difficulty speaking properly because of alignment problems with their teeth and jaws.
Gum Damage: in cases of incorrect bite, teeth may damage gum tissue.
Tooth wear: crooked teeth often show abnormal, and sometimes damaging, patterns of wear
Occlusion: occlusion describes how the upper and lower teeth meet during chewing or when the jaws are closed. This is commonly called the “bite”. Proper occlusion is important fo good oral health and for an attractive appearance of the mouth.
Orthodontic treatment involves the design and use of corrective appliances including braces, plates and headgear. These appliances move the teeth by applying gentle forces on them. When the appliances are adjusted, the teeth receive a little pressure. In response to this pressure, a tooth will move gradually through the bone.
This process may cause some minor discomfort or pain. Your dentist or orthodontist will help you choose the appliance that best suits your particular needs. Every dentist is legally qualified to provide orthodontic treatment.
When to have an orthodontic assessment
Many orthodontic problems are apparent by seven to nine years of age when the six-year molars and the adult front teeth have come through. The best age for a child is around seven to eight years of age.
Early examination of the teeth and jaws allows the dentist to detect and evaluate problems, and plan for best treatment.
In some cases, early treatment may prevent orthodontic problems from getting worse. In may also results in shorter and less complicated treatment at a later age.
Early treatment is usually relatively simple, involving a minimum of appliances. It is often done while many baby teeth are present.
Full treatment usually involves fixed appliances, or braces, for about two year. In many patients, the best time to start treatment is when the last baby tooth is shed – usually around twelve years of age.
Treatment of Adults
Orthodontic treatment is not restricted to children and teenagers. The basic process in moving teeth is the same at any age. Orthodontic treatment can be successful for adults.
Treatment may take longer for adults as their jaw bones are more dense.
As an adult’s facial bones are no longer growing, some sever malocclusions cannot be corrected with braces alone. In some cases, orthodontic treatment is combined with jaw surgery to achieve an acceptable outcome.
Examination and treatment planning
A thorough examination is important for proper diagnosis of a malocclusion. Records assist the accurate analysis of each patient. They also record the existing malocclusion for future reference. Records include:
Impressions from which plaster models of the teeth are made
Photographs of the teeth and face
X-ray films of the teeth and jaws
Advice can then be given on:
When treatment should start
How long it should last
How much it is likely to cost
If it is too early to start treatment, the patient is reviewed at regular intervals until it is time to start
Extractions and other treatments
Sometimes one or more teeth must be removed so enough space is available to align teeth and produce a balanced outcome. Cavities in teeth should be filled before treatment. Teeth may need to be professionally cleaned.
Braces are the most efficient and accurate way of moving teeth. Braces consist of bands, brackets and wires. They are usually made of stainless steel and selected metal alloys. Clear brackets (made of tough ceramic) are used if the person chooses to display less metal; these are usually more expensive.
Patients return about every 4-8 weeks for adjustments, wire changes and general inspection of the treatment’s progress.
Importance of Dental Hygiene
The patient must be committed to oral hygiene and proper teeth cleaning during treatment. Thorough cleaning must be done at least twice daily and preferably after each meal. Poor oral hygiene may results in damage to teeth and gums, and an unsatisfactory outcome.
Braces and appliances do not cause cavities. However, they can make cleaning difficult. Cleaning must be thorough so that food and plaque are removed from all tooth and appliance surfaces.
Elastic Bands and Headgear
During treatment, some patients may need to wear items such as elastic bands and headgear with their braces. These provide important additional forces for the correction of their teeth and bite.
Length of orthodontic treatment
For most patients, treatment takes about 24 months. Some cases may be finished earlier or later. The totally treatment time depends on the complexity of the original problem, the type of treatment carried out, and cooperation of the patient. To avoid treatment delays, follow instructions, keep appointments, and take good care of teeth, gums and braces.
Other Orthodontic Appliances
Other appliances can be used either preceding or together with braces, and sometimes as an alternative. Such appliances include:
Sequential clear plastic aligners to correct mild to moderate dental crowding
Arch expansion appliances to correct cross bites
Functional appliances to correct jaw disharmony
Removable orthodontic plates to correct relatively simple problems
Continue to attend your general dentist for regular check-ups at least every six months during the course of treatment.
Inconvenience during treatment
For most people, treatment will require changes to their daily routine and diet. Avoid soft drinks, or take them in moderation. You will need to intensify your efforts to keep your teeth clean.
When playing contact sports, wear a mouth guard.
At the completion of treatment, braces are removed and retaining appliances (“retainers”) are fitted to hold and support the teeth in their new position. These appliances may be removable plates or wires fitted behind the teeth.
Retainers play an important ongoing role in orthodontic treatment. If they are not worn according to instructions, the teeth may move out of alignment.
Your dentist will want to inspect the corrected teeth at regular periods for several years after the completion of treatment; usually once or twice a year