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 typically 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!
*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.
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! Some patients may even be candidates for treatment with Invisalign, a revolutionary way to straighten teeth using clear, retainer type aligners that require no braces or wires! If treatment is necessary, we will thoroughly discuss which treatment option is best suited for you!
Orthodontic treatment involves three phases:
1. Planning Phase – Your first couple of visits may include the following:
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 orthodontist 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.