Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that focus on diagnosing and treating malocclusions, otherwise known as crooked teeth or bad bites. Orthodontists are dentists who, in addition to completing dental school, also completed three additional years of specialized study and a residence program in order to learn the more specialized techniques required in their profession. If you have a dental problem that involves the placement of your teeth, your general dentist will likely refer you to an orthodontist for treatment.
- Overbites: An abnormality that occurs when your top teeth extend too far out in front of your bottom teeth, making it difficult to bite into foods
- Underbites: An alignment issue in which the bottom front teeth protrude further than the top front teeth
- Open Bites: A malocclusion in which the top and bottom front teeth do not meet
- Crossbites: An abnormality in which the upper teeth sit to the inside of the lower teeth
- Overcrowding: A situation in which the jaw is too small for the teeth, causing them to overlap and appear crowded
Though orthodontic treatments are very common for children and teens, there are also many adults who receive orthodontic care. Some adults have their crooked teeth adjusted in adulthood because the problem was never dealt with when they were younger. Others seek treatment after an accident leaves their teeth misaligned or to straighten teeth that have shifted back out of place after treatment in childhood
What Are The Most Common Orthodontic Treatments?
If you or your child wants straight teeth, your first step should be to search for an “orthodontist near me” and congratulations you’ve found us! Schedule your appointment for a consultation today. Most children should be evaluated by an orthodontist around the age of 7 since bite problems start to become noticeable at this age. Based on the nature of the malocclusion, your orthodontist can recommend a specialized treatment protocol to help you or your child attain straight teeth. Most cases can be treated with either braces or Invisalign®
Traditional braces are a series of brackets and wires that are attached to the teeth that slowly shift them into proper positions. Most younger patients need to wear braces a year or more, though some adults with mild misalignment issues may only need to wear them for a few months.
There are a few different types of braces that your orthodontist can help you choose from. Traditional metal braces are the most affordable option, but some patients don’t like their obvious appearance. Braces made from tooth-colored ceramic are an affordable option that blend in with your natural teeth a bit more
While wearing braces can cause some discomfort as the teeth, the aches are easy to manage with over-the-counter pain relievers. Dentist will provide wax to keep wires from rubbing on your cheeks. Patients with braces need to visit their orthodontist every 4 weeks to have the braces adjusted and tightened to ensure correct movement is occurring
Invisalign® is an alternative to braces that is increasing in popularity, especially among self-conscious teen and adults who want to maintain a professional appearance while straightening their teeth. This orthodontic treatment is a series of clear, plastic trays (aligners) that fit over your teeth and slowly shift them into place. Nobody will see the aligners on your teeth unless they are looking very closely.
Invisalign makes it easy to maintain your current lifestyle while straightening your teeth. You remove the aligners to eat, so there are no dietary restrictions, and you also remove them to brush your teeth–making it easy to keep up with good hygiene habits. There is even a specialized Invisalign system for teens, known as Invisalign Teen®. However, since remembering to remove and replace the aligners does require a certain level or responsibility, this system may not be appropriate for all young patients. The aligners need to be worn consistently for 20 – 22 hours per day in order to yield the desired results.
While Invisalign may not cause cheek and tongue irritation like traditional braces, the aligners do still cause some discomfort as they cause the teeth to move. Patients with Invisalign need to visit their orthodontist every 4 to 6 weeks to monitor the progress of the treatment.
Depending on the nature of your misalignment, your orthodontist may recommend other treatments to supplement your use of braces or Invisalign. Sometimes, a device called a palate expander may be used to widen the upper jaw and make more space for over-crowded teeth. When you are finished wearing braces or Invisalign, your orthodontist will typically fit you with a retainer to keep your teeth in their new positions
There are also a few other orthodontic treatments that may be used in specialized cases:
- A fixed space maintainer is a device used to keep a space open when a child loses a baby tooth prematurely. It helps ensure the new adult teeth erupt in the proper locations.
- Splints are devices worn to help train the jaw to sit in a better position. They’re often used to treat TMJ pain and jaw aches.
- Lip bumpers are devices that create space between the lips and teeth, helping to relieve pressure on the teeth that may shift them out of position.
Orthodontic treatment is often seen as cosmetic in nature, but in fact, there are many benefits of having a straighter, properly aligned bite.
When your teeth are misaligned, brushing and flossing may not be as effective. There may be surfaces you cannot reach easily with a toothbrush, and getting floss between some of your teeth may be difficult or impossible. In time, failure to keep certain areas clean may lead to tooth decay and gum disease, both of which increase your chances of tooth loss. Straightening your teeth makes them easier to keep clean, so you can maintain a healthy smile for years to come.
Many children who have trouble speaking clearly can blame their problem, at least in part, in misaligned teeth. Improperly positioned teeth make it difficult to make sounds that require a proper tongue position. Oftentimes, children with speech difficulties begin speaking more clearly after proper orthodontic treatment. Proper speech will make it easier for them to fit in with their peers and speak with confidence, which can have a profound impact on their career ambitions later in life.
People with poorly aligned teeth often have trouble chewing or biting into foods like apples. Orthodontic treatment can make it easier to enjoy the foods you love, even if it means giving up crunchy and sticky foods while you’re actually wearing braces.
TMJ disorder is a condition that causes aches, stiffness, and shooting pains in the joint between your lower jaw bone and the portion of your skill behind your ear. There are many possible causes and risk factors for this condition, but it’s very common in patients with misaligned teeth. Undergoing orthodontic treatment may help ease the symptoms of TMJ disorder, reducing our reliance on pain relievers and other temporary sources of relief.