Your dentist may have discussed with you the benefits of having healthy teeth and proper jaw function. Altogether it is more difficult to keep crooked, crowded or overlapping teeth clean and their supporting bone and gums healthy. Furthermore, other orthodontic problems may contribute to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, inefficient chewing function, and excessive stress on gum tissue and the supporting bone. For most people, a beautiful smile is the most obvious benefit of orthodontics.
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The practice of orthodontics involves the design, application and control of corrective appliances, such as braces or removable appliances, to treat and correct these irregularities.
What is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a specialist who has completed a two to three year advanced education program after dental school in order to learn the special skills to diagnose facial irregularities, manage tooth movement and guide facial development.
At what age should orthodontic treatment occur? Can adults benefit from braces?
Any individual, regardless of age, can start and successfully receive Orthodontic treatment. Adults especially appreciate an attractive smile. For children, the timing of orthodontic treatment varies from child to child based on their specific needs and the severity of the problem. In addition, treatment for young, growing children may be timed to correspond with skeletal growth spurts to improve treatment outcomes.
Why is age seven an ideal time for a first visit to the orthodontist? Why does the American Association of Orthodontics recommend an initial screening visit at age seven?
In most seven-year-old children, the permanent upper and lower incisors (front teeth) as well as the six-year molars (first molars) have erupted. This is the first opportunity for an orthodontist to evaluate the bite relationship of the front and back teeth. Based on Drs. Lewis’ or Thieberg’s clinical exam of the jaws and teeth, treatment may or may not be recommended at this age. If no treatment is necessary, periodic “check-ups” to ensure proper growth and development of the permanent dentition are scheduled; these visits are complimentary. Some terms for treatment in the mixed dentition (before all of the permanent teeth erupt) are early treatment, phase I, or interceptive treatment.
Why are so many young kids wearing braces these days? What orthodontic problems are best treated early or in younger children?
Drs. Lewis and Thieberg approach treatment of young children on an individual basis and only recommend treatment that is interceptive in nature. With new advances in technology, there are some orthodontic problems that are easier to correct at younger ages. This may avert more serious problems (such as the need for jaw surgery) and complicated treatment protocols once all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Some examples of such problems include mismatched jaw position, severe tooth protrusion (buck teeth), cross-bites of the teeth or jaws, need for elimination of thumb or finger habits, and dental crowding. Depending on the child and family, esthetics may or may not be an indication for early treatment.
What is Phase I and Phase II treatment?
Phase I, or early interceptive treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment before all of the permanent teeth have erupted. Some examples are an expander or partial braces. Such treatment can occur between the ages of six and ten. This treatment is sometimes recommended to make more space for developing teeth, correct improper bite relationships (crossbites, overbites, underbites), or harmful oral habits such as thumb sucking. Phase II treatment is also called comprehensive treatment or full treatment. This treatment involves full braces when all of the permanent teeth have erupted, usually between the ages of eleven and thirteen. Phase II treatment may be necessary for some children who completed Phase I treatment.
What are some possible benefits of orthodontics?
- A more attractive smile
- Reduced self-consciousness
- Increased self-confidence
- Better function of the teeth & jaws
- Better long term health of teeth and gums
- Increased ability to clean the teeth
- Reduced wear of the teeth
- Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
- Reduce the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
- Aid in optimizing other dental treatment
What are some signs that braces may be needed?
- Crowded or overlapped teeth
- Spaces between the teeth
- Upper front teeth protrude excessively over the lower teeth, or are bucked
- Deep bite-upper front teeth cover the majority of the lower teeth
- Underbite/Cross-bite-upper front teeth are behind or inside the lower teeth
- Openbite-the upper and lower front teeth do not touch when biting together
- Habits-finger or thumb sucking after the age of five to six years old
- The lower jaw shifts to one side or the other when biting
- Difficulty chewing
- Uneven or excessive tooth wear
How does orthodontic treatment work?
Braces use steady gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into their proper positions. The brackets placed on your teeth are the main components, as well as the archwire that connects them. When the archwire is placed into the brackets, it tries to return to its original shape. As it does so, it applies pressure to move your teeth to their new, more ideal positions.
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. In addition, rate of growth and severity of the necessary correction may affect actual treatment time.
Do braces hurt?
The placement of bands and brackets on your teeth does not hurt. However, once your braces are placed and connected with the archwires you may feel some soreness of your teeth for one to four days.
Will braces interfere with playing sports?
No. It is recommended, however, that patients protect their smiles by wearing a mouthguard when participating in any sporting activity.
Will braces interfere with playing musical instruments?
No. However, there may be an initial period of adjustment. In addition, brace covers can be provided to prevent discomfort.
Should I see my dentist while I have braces?
Yes, you should continue to see your dentist every six months for your regular cleaning and dental checkups.