Orthodontics is the dental specialty that focuses on the alignment of teeth and the jaw and the necessary correction of any imperfections that are causing problems. When most people think of orthodontics the first thought is of a mouth full of metal and headgear on kids, but the reality is that orthodontics is so much more than that.

Although many people turn to orthodontics strictly for aesthetic reasons, crooked teeth and misaligned jaws can cause significant health and dental problems. When teeth are crooked or poorly positioned it can be difficult to brush and floss them properly which can lead to cavities and eventually gum disease or tooth loss. A misaligned bite can create speech difficulties such as a lisp or problems chewing, eventually leading to malnutrition. Over time, misaligned jaws can cause pain and cracked teeth. The importance of fixing one’s physical appearance should not be discounted either. Crooked teeth or a severe overbite or underbite can cause kids to be teased which can lead to self-esteem problems and adults can feel very self-conscious about the appearance of their face. A smile is the often the first thing people notice and it’s important to be able to feel good about it.

Orthodontic treatment goes far beyond braces. Although traditional metal brackets are still a big part of straightening teeth, other options for the brackets are available, including different colors of metal and even clear brackets that are barely noticeable. Appliances are available for straightening teeth and fixing bites such as retainers and bars that are bonded to the teeth and connected with elastics. In some cases it’s necessary to remove teeth to make more room in the mouth and occasionally surgery may be necessary to treat a particularly problematic bite.

It’s recommended that kids have their first orthodontic appointment around age 7 to determine what problems are presenting and make decisions for future treatment. It’s preferable to treat orthodontic problems in childhood when teeth are are more easily moved, but it’s never too late. More adults are turning to orthodontics to fix their smile. If you’re ready to have a beautiful smile, call the office for more information.

Who can benefit from orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a dental specialty that is focused on the treatment of malocclusion (improper bite). Certification as an orthodontist requires two to three years of additional specialized training following dental school. Orthodontics is commonly thought to focus only on the aesthetic aspects of dentistry, that is, correcting misaligned teeth for the sake of creating a beautiful smile. However, untreated malocclusion can cause difficulty chewing or speaking as well as more severe problems including TMJ disorder, severe tooth decay and periodontal disease. Traditionally, orthodontic treatment has focused on correcting the teeth of children and teenagers. However, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, as many as 20% of current orthodontic patients are adults, and patients of all ages can be treated successfully.

Orthodontists focus on three major types of tooth alignment problems: overcrowding, overbite and underbite. Overcrowding is the result of too little space for the teeth to align normally. One option for the treatment of overcrowding is the use of palate expanders, which slowly stretch the palate over time to provide additional space. Overbite is characterized by the upper teeth protruding too far over the lower teeth while underbite is due to the lower teeth jutting forward past the upper teeth. Each of these conditions can be corrected through the use of traditional metal or ceramic braces or newer removable appliances.

Traditional braces realign the teeth using metal or ceramic brackets that are cemented to each tooth and wires connected to the brackets to shift the teeth into the desired position. Additional pressure may be added through the use of rubber bands connected to the brackets. Removable appliances such as Invisalign can exert pressure on the teeth to shift their alignment without the use of brackets. Orthodontists may offer different colors of braces to make the tooth straightening process more fun for their patients.

The time required for orthodontic treatment depends on the severity of the misalignment as well as the method of correction used. Treatment may take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Orthodontists frequently recommend the removal of the wisdom teeth in younger patients in order to prevent overcrowding when these teeth erupt. After active realignment has been completed, the orthodontist may recommend the patient wear a retainer to hold the teeth in place while the bones re-form around the repositioned teeth.