Orthodontics

What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of jaw, face and bite irregularities (malocclusions*).  Orthodontic treatment is provided by an oral health care provider known as an orthodontist, who has completed two to three years of additional training beyond dental school. 

Recent years have brought about many changes within the dental industry, specifically with regards to orthodontic treatment and care.  Now more than ever patients are experiencing fewer incidences of cavities and missing teeth due to the heightened awareness of fluoride use and preventative dentistry.   This increasing awareness on the health and look of a patient’s smile has fueled the desire for many to seek out orthodontia not only as a medical necessity, but for cosmetic reasons as well.   

Whether it’s traditional braces or custom made removable appliances, orthodontics can help you have the healthy, straight, beautiful smile you’ve been waiting for!

Give us a call today and schedule your orthodontic consultation!

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*Malocclusion
is the technical term for teeth that don’t fit together correctly.  Malocclusions not only affect the teeth, but also the appearance of the face.  Most malocclusions are inherited; however some are due to acquired habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.  The spacing left from an adult tooth being extracted or an early loss of a baby tooth can also contribute to a malocclusion.


 

Why should I get orthodontic treatment? 

The benefits of orthodontic treatment often go beyond the obvious physical changes of an improved bite and straighter teeth; it’s also a great way to improve a person’s overall self-image.   While having beautiful straight teeth is important, even more important is the need to alleviate any potential health problems associated with the teeth or jaw.  Crooked teeth or jaw problems may contribute to improper cleaning of teeth, leading to tooth decay and, possibly, gum disease or total tooth loss.  Orthodontic problems that go untreated can lead to chewing and digestion difficulties, speech impairments, and abnormal wear of tooth surfaces.  Over time, excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth can affect the jaw joints leading to problems such as headaches or face and neck pain.

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children get an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7.  Though orthodontic treatment can be done at any age, timely treatment ensures maximum dental health. 

With all of the recent advancements in orthodontics, wearing braces has never been easier.  State-of-the-art appliances and treatments are now available, from traditional metal braces, to clear and tooth colored brackets, to NASA type wires that are heat activated and require fewer adjustments!  

If treatment is necessary, we will thoroughly discuss which treatment option is best suited for you!

Reasons for orthodontic treatment (braces) adults & children:

  • Breathing or swallowing problems – Mouth breathing can lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Crossbite – One or more upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth (towards the tongue).
  • Crowding – Involving extra teeth or malpositioned teeth.
  • Deep Overbite – The lower front teeth bite into the upper tissue of the upper teeth.
  • Disfiguring of the face & mouth – Affects the development of the jaw and position of the teeth.
  • Jaw & jaw joint pain
  • Missing or extra teeth – Due to tooth decay, injuries, or inherited problems.
  • Overjet (protruding upper teeth) – Upper teeth that protrude beyond normal and are usually associated with a short lower jaw.
  • Self-image – An attractive smile can boost a person’s self-image and confidence.
  • Spacing between teeth – Teeth are missing or may be too small or too large.
  • Speech, chewing or biting problems
  • Underbite (lower jaw protrusion) – Lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.

Specific to children:

  • Finger or thumb sucking – These habits can cause protrusion of the upper incisor teeth, and mouth breathing.
  • Teeth erupting out of position – Can be guided to proper alignment.

 

What does orthodontic treatment involve?

Orthodontic treatment involves three phases:

1.  Planning Phase – Your first couple of visits may include the following:

  • A medical and dental history evaluation.
  • Castings or “molds” of your teeth.
  • Computer generated photograph of the head and neck that will aid in planning.
  • Photographs of your face and mouth.
  • X-rays of the teeth and jaws.

After careful planning, your orthodontist will design and apply braces or fabricate custom-made appliances for you.

2.  Active Phase – Active treatment involves visiting your orthodontist on a regular basis for adjustments and following specific treatment requirements to ensure successful treatment.

3.  Retention Phase – When treatment is completed, the braces and/or appliances are removed and a new appliance is made.  Usually these retainers are removable and will maintain the changes made to your teeth if worn continuously until the teeth and bone are stabilized in their new positions.

Treatment and retention times vary depending on each individual case.  Your dentist will ensure you have a successful treatment for a beautiful smile that can last a lifetime. 

Orthodontics can not only help straighten your teeth, giving you an appealing smile, but can greatly contribute to the health of your jaw, teeth and sometimes your overall health.

Orthodontic treatment is primarily used to prevent and correct “bite” irregularities.  Several factors may contribute to such irregularities, including genetic factors, the early loss of primary (baby) teeth, and damaging oral habits (such as thumb sucking and developmental problems).

Orthodontic irregularities may be present at birth or develop during toddlerhood or early childhood.  Crooked teeth hamper self-esteem and make good oral homecare difficult, whereas straight teeth help minimize the risk of tooth decay and childhood periodontal disease.

During biannual preventative visits, your dentist is able to utilize many diagnostic tools to monitor orthodontic irregularities and, if necessary, implement early intervention strategies.  Children should have an initial orthodontic evaluation before the age of eight.

 

Why does early orthodontic treatment make sense?

Some children display early signs of minor orthodontic irregularities.  In such cases, your pediatric dentist might choose to monitor the situation over time without providing intervention.  However, for children who display severe orthodontic irregularities, early orthodontic treatment can provide many benefits, including:

  • Enhanced self-confidence and aesthetic appearance.
  • Increased likelihood of proper jaw growth.
  • Increased likelihood of properly aligned and spaced adult teeth.
  • Reduced risk of bruxing (grinding of teeth).
  • Reduced risk of childhood cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth decay.
  • Reduced risk of impacted adult teeth.
  • Reduced risk of protracted orthodontic treatments in later years.
  • Reduced risk of speech problems.
  • Reduced risk of tooth, gum, and jawbone injury.

 

When can my child begin early orthodontic treatment?

Pediatric dentists recognize three age-related stages of orthodontic treatment.  These stages are described in detail below.

Stage 1: Early treatment (2-6 years old)

Early orthodontic treatment aims to guide and regulate the width of both dental arches.  The main goal of early treatment is to provide enough space for the permanent teeth to erupt correctly.  Good candidates for early treatment include: children who have difficulty biting properly, children who lose baby teeth early, children whose jaws click or grind during movement, bruxers, and children who use the mouth (as opposed to the nose AND mouth) to breathe.

During the early treatment phase, your pediatric dentist works with parents and children to eliminate orthodontically harmful habits, like excessive pacifier use and thumb sucking.  The dentist may also provide one of a variety of dental appliances to promote jaw growth, hold space for adult teeth (space maintainers), or to prevent the teeth from “shifting” into undesired areas.

Stage 2: Middle dentition (6-12 years old)

The goals of middle dentition treatments are to realign wayward jaws, to start to correct crossbites, and to begin the process of gently straightening misaligned permanent teeth.  Middle dentition marks a developmental period when the soft and hard tissues are extremely pliable.  In some ways therefore, it marks an optimal time to begin to correct a severe malocclusion.

Again, the dentist may provide the child with a dental appliance.  Some appliances (like braces) are fixed and others are removable.  Regardless of the appliance, the child will still be able to speak, eat, and chew in a normal fashion.  However, children who are fitted with fixed dental appliances should take extra care to clean the entire oral region each day in order to reduce the risk of staining, decay, and later cosmetic damage.

Stage 3: Adolescent dentition (13+ years old)

Adolescent dentition is what springs to most parents’ minds when they think of orthodontic treatment.  Some of the main goals of adolescent dentition include straightening the permanent teeth and improving the aesthetic appearance of the smile.

Most commonly during this period, the dentist will provide fixed or removable “braces” to gradually straighten the teeth.  Upon completion of the orthodontic treatment, the adolescent may be required to wear a retainer in order to prevent the regression of the teeth to their original alignment.

 

If you have questions or concerns about orthodontic treatment, please contact our office.

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