What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities (malocclusion). It generally involves the use of such things as braces, removable appliances, functional appliances or headgear to move the teeth or jaws into an ideal relationship.
What is a malocclusion?
Malocclusion is a technical term for crooked, crowded or protruding teeth that do not fit together properly. These problems may be inherited or acquired. Common malocclusions include crowding of teeth, prominent teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth and a variety of irregularities of the jaws and face. Thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, dental disease, premature loss of primary or permanent teeth, or accidents can cause malocclusions.
What are the benefits of orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment is frequently performed to improve a person’s appearance by straightening the teeth. However, an attractive smile is just one of the benefits. Crowded and overlapping teeth are harder to clean and can increase the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. Having your teeth straightened will make it easier for you to look after them.
A malocclusion may also contribute to speech impairments and increase the risk of trauma if teeth are prominent. Abnormal or uneven wear of tooth surfaces can also occur if there is poor alignment of the teeth or jaws. In cases of deep bite, the lower front teeth can bite into the gum behind the upper front teeth causing damage. Bringing the teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment results in better function, easier cleansing, increased confidence and self-
Who can benefit from orthodontics?
At one time, most people believed braces were only for children. However, teeth can be moved at any age as long as the gum and bone are healthy. Because the basic process involved in moving teeth is the same in adults as in children, orthodontic treatment can usually be successful at any age. Because an adult’s facial bones are no longer growing, however, some severe malocclusions cannot be corrected with braces alone. In such cases, orthodontic treatment combined with jaw surgery can achieve dramatic improvements.
When should orthodontic treatment begin?
It is usually wise to have an orthodontic consultation around age nine. Some orthodontic problems are easier to correct if detected early, rather than waiting until jaw growth has slowed. Early examination allows the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems and plan appropriate treatment. Early treatment may prevent more serious problems from developing or make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. In other cases, however, treatment will not commence until all the baby teeth have been lost.
What are ‘braces’?
Braces are the most efficient and accurate way of moving teeth. Brackets, usually made of stainless steel or a clear plastic material, are adhered to each tooth with special dental glue. These brackets act like a handle on the tooth so that, with wires, it can be moved into its correct position. The brackets remain on the teeth for the entire duration of treatment. Adjustments are then made to the braces every four to six weeks. During treatment, patients may need to wear such items as rubber bands. These provide important extra forces for the correction of the bite.
How long will I need to wear braces?
On average, orthodontic treatment lasts approximately 18 to 24 months. The length of treatment will depend on the severity of the original malocclusion as well as the type of treatment carried out, and the co-operation of the patient. At the completion of the active part of orthodontic treatment, the braces are removed and retaining appliances (retainers) are fitted to hold the teeth steady in their new position. These appliances may be removable plates or wires fitted behind the teeth. Retainers play an important role in orthodontic treatment for, if they are not worn according to instructions, the teeth may move back towards their original position.
Can anyone have orthodontic treatment?
Generally orthodontic treatment is best carried out in children, but many adults have orthodontic treatment, too. Orthodontic treatment involves a full examination of your teeth, which includes taking x-rays and making plaster models of your teeth from impressions, and possibly taking photographs. Orthodontic treatment is carried out using a range of appliances, which may be removable or fixed temporarily to your teeth, depending on your treatment needs. It is usually necessary to adjust any orthodontic appliance at four to six week intervals.
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