This is the word that usually comes to mind when one speaks of Orthodontics. But in reality, it actually covers the entire dental field of making your teeth straight. The word comes from Greek; orthos (proper or straight) and odons (teeth). While in the past orthodontic treatment was geared mostly toward teens and pre-teens (as this is the best time to resolve orthodontic problems), today almost 30% of orthodontic patients are adults.
The most obvious advantage to proper orthodontic treatment is a much more attractive smile through straight teeth. But beyond the aesthetic (which is a big deal), there are a lot of other advantages to having straight teeth:
- Easier cleaning
- Better oral hygiene
- Clearer speech
- and easing of jaw tension
Orthodontic treatment is not a one-session procedure, like dental fillings or other procedures. Instead, most orthodontic treatment requires time to slowly set the teeth straight through pressure and microadjustments. Because of this, it is important that orthodontic treatment start early. Moreover, with a growing body (child, pre-teen or teen) the problems can more quickly be resolved.
WHAT DOES ORTHODONTICS SOLVE?
Some of the more common conditions treated with orthodontics are:
- Anteroposterior Discrepancy – The lack of compatibility between a pair of closed jaws is known as an anteroposterior discrepancy or deviation. This can range from an overbite or underbite (where the upper or lower teeth are pushed forward from the other) to more isolated gaps between the upper and lower teeth.
- Overcrowding – The teeth don’t have enough space and so start pushing each other around. This can result from wisdom teeth coming in or the jaw not developing in sync with the adult teeth coming in.
- Misaligned Teeth – A straight smile is more aesthetic than a crooked smile. Whether it’s buck teeth or a few crooked teeth, orthodontics can solve these individual teeth and create a beautiful straight smile.
Orthodontists work on reconstructing the entire face rather than focusing only on teeth. After a course of active orthodontic treatment, patients will usually wear retainers which help to maintain the teeth in their improved positions while surrounding bone reforms around them.
As technology advances, so does orthodontic treatment. While orthodontics was synonymous with braces in the past, advanced methods now allow for alternative methods of orthodontic treatments. Which method is best suited for you will depend on a full examination of your mouth, your bite and your jaw. This is done on your first visit and will usually include a visual examination, X-Rays and bite impressions.
After a diagnosis, a variety of orthodontic treatment options are available.
- Fixed braces: A metal or ceramic “anchor” is placed on each tooth and a metal wire is threaded through these. By changing the wire tension, the Orthodontist is able to “train” the teeth into alignment over time. Once the teeth are straightened, the wire and anchors are removed.
- Removable appliances: Often referred to as retainers, there are a range of removable appliances used in orthodontics, including headgear that correct overbites, retainers that improve the position of the teeth even as the jawbone reforms, and facemasks which are used to correct an underbite.
- Invisalign®: A modern alternative to braces, this removable dental aligner is completely transparent and thus preferred over traditional braces. Using very similar technology to traditional braces, Invisalign uses pressure to slowly train the teeth into their correction position. Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.