What is orthodontic treatment?
Teeth in the upper and lower jaw normally fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. If they don’t fit neatly together, then some functions such as chewing and speech may be affected. Further, the risk of tooth decay and gum disease can be increased. Dental braces or orthodontic appliances may be required to correct the alignment of the teeth to maximize aesthetics and minimize the risk of disease and discomfort.
What are some common orthodontic problems?
- Crowded Teeth – There is insufficient space for the teeth to sit side by side as they are designed to do. This could be due to either large teeth, teeth in the wrong place, a small jaw, or a combination of any
- Overbite – Normally the top teeth close over the bottom teeth. However, if you have excessive overbite they cover more than what would normally be expected. If you can only see less than half of your lower teeth when you close fully, you may have excessive overbite.
- Underbite – If the lower front teeth are in front of the upper front teeth when you bite, then the bottom jaw is further forward than it should be.
- Protrusion – Normally when the teeth are closed together, the upper teeth sit inside the lower lip. If your upper teeth sit over the lower lip you may have protruded teeth. This increases the risk of tooth damage from accidents and may also lead to speech and eating problems. Further, many people find protruded teeth cosmetically undesirable and choose to get orthodontic treatment for aesthetic reasons.
When should I (or my child) get orthodontic treatment?
- There is no age limit to orthodontic treatment but certain ages are ideal for correction of tooth or bone problems. Regular dental check ups should begin at an early age for all children and the need for orthodontic treatment can usually be recognized by around 8-9 years of age. Treatment is usually commenced after all of the adult permanent teeth are present in the mouth (around 11-13 years), though in some cases treatment may be undertaken earlier or later depending on the exact situation.
- Adults of all ages can be treated for misalignment or crowded teeth as long as there is no current gum disease or tooth decay present in the mouth.
What happens before treatment?
- A thorough assessment and treatment planning must be undertaken prior to commencement of orthodontic treatment. This includes a general check up to assess the health of the gums and existing teeth as well as the oral hygiene status of the individual. Impressions need to be taken of the upper and lower jaws in order to make plaster casts for further treatment planning.
What are the types of orthodontic treatments?
- Braces – Traditional metal or modern ceramic brackets are attached to each tooth and an archwire is threaded through. The constant pressure exerted on the teeth and bones by the wire will gradually move the teeth in to the desired position. Elastic bands are stretched between the upper and lower braces if additional force is required to move the teeth.
- Clear aligners – Clear aligners such as the Invisalign, can be used to correct many misalignment and crowding issues without the discomfort and appearance of metal braces and wires. Clear aligners need to be worn continuously except during eating and with time will apply gradual pressure on teeth and bones to move them into the desired position.
- Plates – Plates are small plastic devices that can be used in the mouth to push teeth in to the desired position or hold them in place. Unlike traditional braces which are attached to the teeth, plates can be taken in and out of the mouth.
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