What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is an area of dentistry specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of jaw and bite malalignment and crooked and crowded teeth. Treatment can be performed on adults and children and involves the use of corrective appliances such as braces, plates, headgear and aligners to move the teeth and jaws into proper alignment.
At The Dental Practice, our goal is to help all of our patients achieve a healthy, beautiful smile that lasts for life.
Some common problems which may be solved by Orthodontic treatment include:
- Crowded or crooked teeth
Crowded teeth look unappealing and are more difficult to clean. This can occur due to the difference between tooth size and jaw size.
- Spaces between teeth
Large spaces between teeth look unattractive and can interfere with speech. This may be due to a difference in tooth size compared to jaw size or by tongue thrusting as a child.
- Missing teeth
Apart from aesthetic concerns, missing teeth have an impact on your long-term oral health as teeth on either side can drift into the space creating further problems. Orthodontic treatment can be used to solve this, often in conjunction with other permanent tooth replacement options such as dental implants.
- Protruding teeth
Protruding teeth are more prone to accidental damage and are usually the result of the upper and lower jaws being out of alignment. Protruding teeth can wear unevenly and over-erupt, causing gum damage and speech difficulties.
- Bite malalignments and chewing difficulties
This includes cross bite, open bite and under or over bite. In a normal mouth, the upper teeth should fit together with the lower teeth closing together on the outside like a lid on a box. Any variation from this can cause long term problems with eating, speech, uneven tooth wear , over eruption and jaw pain.
- Impacted teeth
A tooth is impacted if it fails to completely erupt from the gum. This can lead to gum problems, decay and damage to other teeth. Orthodontic treatment can be useful to create space and aid the tooth in erupting.
- Speech difficulty
Some speech problems detected in children can be corrected at an early age through orthodontic treatment.
- Grinding or clenching of teeth
Grinding or clenching your teeth can lead to other health problems including headaches, head, neck and even shoulder pain. Orthodontic treatment may help to prevent this from occurring.
- Painful or clicking jaws
Apart from being sore and sometimes embarrassing, painful or clicking jaws can cause long term problems including headaches, head, neck pain or earaches. Orthodontic treatment may help ease these symptoms.
- Thumb sucking
Thumb-sucking can lead to long term problems with teeth and bite alignment. Appliances can be used to help children break this habit.
The most important aspect of orthodontic treatment is the planning and consultation stage. Following your initial examination, your dentist will request a series of special x-rays, photographs and plaster models to be made of your teeth. These records will be used to determine the treatment options available for you. During the consultation appointment, the treatment options and costs will be discussed with you prior to your treatment commencing.
There is a wide variety of treatment strategies used for orthodontics depending on your age and /or condition. Treatment may consist of removable plates or fixed appliances (eg. braces) or a combination of both lasting anywhere from 18 – 36 months. The treatment will vary from case to case and will depend on the severity of the original problem, type of treatment required and the co-operation of the patient.
Treatment for younger patients
Orthodontic treatment on younger patients is called orthopaedics. Whilst similar treatment solutions are offered, early intervention is often preferable as children’s bones are still developing, therefore making teeth easier to move into the correct position. Assessment and diagnosis at around the age of 7 or 8 is ideal as it may be possible to prevent serious problems from occurring as well as reduce treatment time.
Treatment for adults
Standard orthodontic treatment is commonly used for adults, however, another popular treatment alternative is Invisalign. This is a series of custom-made clear aligners, similar to a sport mouthguard (Only much finer) that places pressure on the teeth moving them into position. The aligners are removable so you can enjoy all your favourite foods and clean your mouth normally. Replaced approximately every two weeks, Invisalign is virtually invisible, so no one can notice you are wearing them.
Although clear aligners are very popular, they are not suitable for every situation. At The Dental Practice, ceramic fixed braces are an alternative to metal braces and being tooth coloured, they blend with your teeth making them less noticeable.
Cfast is another way to straighten teeth in as little as six months that is also discreet and reliable. It is often recommended for adults that want to straighten their teeth but don’t want to have metal braces distracting from their appearance. These clear braces are used to cover the part of your smile referred to as the ‘social six’ which are the six most visible teeth when you smile. These are straightened with a tooth coloured wire and clear brackets that comfortably straighten your teeth.
However, Cfast does not work towards correcting your bite alignment and therefore, is only a cosmetic procedure. Traditional orthodontics usually takes a lot longer as you’re trying to improve the position of your jaw as well as the teeth; some people do not need this, which means Cfast might be the right option for them.
In some adult cases, because facial bones are no longer growing, some malocclusions cannot be corrected with braces alone. Orthodontic treatment combined with jaw surgery, dental implants or other dental treatments may be required to achieve the desired results.
Oral health during the treatment
It is never more important to have good oral hygiene than when undergoing orthodontic treatment. Regular cleaning with a soft brush, fluoride toothpaste and floss is essential. At the beginning of your orthodontic treatment, you will be given special instructions on how to effectively clean your teeth, gums and braces which will help keep your treatment time on course and may even help reduce it.
Orthodontic treatment requires patience and discipline and good team-work between the patient and the dentist. Communication and compliance are vital to the success of the treatment leading to an end result that may be life-changing and most often prevents bigger problems from occurring later in life.