Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that corrects teeth and jaws that are positioned improperly. Crooked teeth do not fit together correctly are harder to keep clean, are at risk of being lost early due to tooth decay and periodontal disease, and cause extra stress on the chewing muscles that can lead to headaches, TMJ syndrome and neck, shoulder and back pain. Teeth that are crooked or not in the right place can also detract from one’s appearance.
The benefits of orthodontic treatment include a healthier mouth, a more pleasing appearance, and teeth that are more likely to last a lifetime.
How do I Know if I Need Orthodontics?
Only your dentist or orthodontist can determine whether you can benefit from orthodontics. Based on clinical exam, plaster models of your teeth, and special X-rays and photographs, an orthodontist or dentist can decide whether orthodontics are recommended, and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.
If you have any of the following, you may be a candidate for orthodontic treatment:
- Overbite, sometimes called “buck teeth” — where the upper front teeth lie too far forward (stick out) over the lower teeth
- Underbite —where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth too far back
- Crossbite — when the upper teeth do not come down slightly in front of the lower teeth when biting together normally
- Open bite — space between the biting surfaces of the front and/or side teeth when the back teeth bite together
- Misplaced midline— when the center of your upper front teeth does not line up with the center of your lower front teeth
- Spacing — gaps, or spaces, between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that do not “fill up” the mouth
- Crowding — when there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate
How Does Orthodontic Treatment Work?
Many different types of appliances, both fixed and removable, are used to help move teeth, retrain muscles and affect the growth of the jaws. These appliances work by placing gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws. The severity of your problem will determine which orthodontic approach is likely to be the most effective.
- Braces –the most common fixed appliances, braces consist of bands, wires and/or brackets. Arch wires are passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. Tightening the arch wire puts tension on the teeth, gradually moving them to their proper position. Braces are usually adjusted monthly to bring about the desired results, which may be achieved within a few months to a few years. Today’s braces are smaller, lighter and show far less metal than in the past. They come in bright colors for kids as well as clear styles preferred by many adults.
- Special fixed appliances – used to control thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, these appliances are attached to the teeth by bands.
- Fixed space maintainers – if a baby tooth is lost prematurely, a space maintainer is used to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts.
Removable appliances include:
- Aligners –an alternative to traditional braces for adults, serial aligners are being used by an increasing number of orthodontists to move teeth in the same way that fixed appliances work, only without metal wires and brackets. Aligners are virtually invisible and are removed for eating, brushing and flossing.
- Removable space maintainers – They’re made with an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, and have plastic or wire between specific teeth to keep the space between them open.
- Jaw repositioning appliances/splints – These devices are worn on either the top or lower jaw, and help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position. They may be used for temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).
- Palatal expander – a device used to widen the arch of the upper jaw.
- Removable retainers – worn on the roof of the mouth, these devices prevent shifting of the teeth to their previous position. They can also be modified and used to prevent thumb sucking.
- Headgear – with this device, a strap is placed around the back of the head and attached to a metal wire in front, or face bow. Headgear slows the growth of the upper jaw, and holds the back teeth where they are while the front teeth are pulled back.
Crowding is the lack of space for all the teeth to fit normally within the jaws. The teeth may be twisted or displaced. Crowding occurs when there is disharmony in the tooth to jaw size relationship, or when the teeth are larger than the available space. Crowding can be caused by early or late loss of primary teeth, or improper eruption of teeth.
Crowding should be corrected because it can :
- Prevent proper cleaning of all the surfaces of your teeth, causing dental decay
- Increase the chances of gum disease
- Prevent proper functioning of teeth
- Make your smile less attractive
How can crowding be orthodontically corrected?
Extra space can be created by expansion of the arches or extraction of teeth. Once space is created, braces will eliminate the crowding and align the teeth.
Spacing, is an excess of space for your teeth, resulting in gaps between your teeth. This generally occurs when the teeth are smaller than the available space. Spacing can also be caused by protrusive teeth, missing or impacted teeth, or abnormal tissue attachments to the gums.
Spacing should be corrected because it can:
- Result in gum problems
- Prevent proper functioning of the teeth
- Make your smile less attractive
How can spacing of the teeth be orthodontically corrected?
The spaces can be closed by moving the teeth together and properly aligning them within the arch with help of fixed or removable orthodontic appliances.
If your upper and lower teeth don’t touch when your mouth is closed your doctor calls this a open bite.
Why treat open bite?
The side effects of an open bite range from aesthetic concerns to fractured teeth:
- Aesthetics. A person with an open bite may be unhappy with the appearance of their teeth because they look like they’re sticking out.
- Speech. An open bite can interfere with speech and pronunciation. For example, many people with open bite develop a lisp.
- Eating. An open bite can prevent you from properly biting and chewing food.
- Tooth wear. As the back teeth are coming together more often, the wear can lead to discomfort and other dental problems.
Treatment options for correcting open bite will be told to you by your orthodontist according to severity of your condition.