Orthodontics is a highly-specialized branch of dentistry that deals with facial and jaw irregularities. As proper alignment of the teeth and jaw arches affects coherent speech, chewing and biting abilities, orthodontic treatment is vital for health and comfort.
What Problems Do Orthodontic Treatments Solve?
There is a wide range of orthodontic treatments available to successfully and expediently alter the alignment of teeth. The type of treatment provided depends on the exact nature of the malocclusion or teeth misalignment. Here is a brief overview of the main classifications of bite and teeth positioning problems:
Overcrowding – The non-eruption of adult teeth and the overcrowding of arch space can lead to misalignment. Additionally, overcrowding may cause twisting and complete displacement of teeth.
Negative Underjet – An underbite is characterized by a pronounced lower jaw, which protrudes further than the upper jaw. This malocclusion causes the chin to look large or pointed.
Overbite – Overbite is a result of a protruding maxilla (upper jaw) in relation to the mandible (lower jaw). This type of malocclusion makes the chin look like it has receded.
What Does Orthodontic Treatment Involve?
The first step in developing a treatment plan is completion of a thorough visual examination of a patient’s smile. After completing this, your care provider creates diagnostic records which include panoramic x-rays, bite impressions and additional imaging of the jaw joints in some cases. If treatment is needed to realign the teeth, this is discussed extensively.
Examining diagnostic records allows for the development of a predictable treatment plan. Your dental professional can also work with an oral surgeon if the symmetry of the face needs to be altered. In the case of an overcrowded mouth, one or several teeth may need to be extracted to prepare for the realignment process. Once the diagnosis and preparation phases are complete, a fixed or removable orthodontic appliance is used to move the teeth and jaw arches into ideal alignment.
There are several types of fixed orthodontic appliances, of which traditional metal braces are the most common. Ceramic, clear or metal brackets are fixed onto each individual tooth for the duration of the treatment, and an archwire is threaded through each one to connect them.
The wire is tightened slightly every few weeks until the desired results are achieved. Typically the fixed brackets are removed after 18-30 months.
Removable devices come in many shapes and sizes and are popular because of their convenience and versatility. Removable devices include headgear, which corrects malocclusions due to developmental problems; retainers, which maintain the correct alignment of the teeth after orthodontic treatment; and Invisalign® trays, which are used for several weeks at a time to correct common teeth alignment problems.
It is important to note that a dental professional creates a custom treatment plan or each individual case. The time-span for corrections with removable devices can greatly vary in accordance with the severity of the original malocclusion.
If you have questions about orthodontic care and procedures, please be sure to ask your dental office.