Orthodontics is a branch of medical dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, correction or treatment of malocclusion and malposition of the teeth and jaws. The benefit of orthodontic treatment is not only to improve the aesthetic appearance but also to correct the malposition of your teeth that may cause health problems.
The malocclusion of the teeth and jaw can be the prime cause of:
- tooth decay (due to problematic cleaning and flossing)
- periodontal disease
- temporomandibular joint problems
- extra stress on the chewing muscles that may lead to headaches
Several problems need orthodontic involvement:
- Overbite (buck teeth) - the upper front teeth protrude (“stick out”) over the lower front teeth
- Underbite (“bulldog” appearance) - the lower teeth protrude in front of the upper teeth
- Open bite - the back teeth are closed together, but there’s a space remaining between the lower and upper front teeth
- Deep bite - the upper front teeth cover too much of the lower front teeth
- Crossbite - The upper teeth don’t line up properly with the lower teeth
- Gaps or spacing - spaces between teeth
- Crowding - too many teeth for the small dental arcade
The orthodontic treatment includes both fixed and removable appliances that work by applying gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws.
Fixed appliances include:
- Braces - involves attaching brackets to each tooth with special glue. The brackets are connected with archwires that are usually held in place by rubber or wire ties. You will need monthly appointments with your orthodontist to adjust the braces by tightening the archwire. This puts pressure on the teeth to move them in the desired direction.
- Fixed palatal crib - used to control teeth malposition caused by thumb sucking. The appliance is attached to the inside of the teeth by bands.
- Fixed space maintainers - the appliance is used for premature loss of baby teeth, keeping the space open for the permanent ones to erupt. A band is attached around the tooth next to the lost one and a wire is extended between the space of the two existing teeth, this way keeping the space free and ready for the permanent tooth.
Removable appliances include:
- Aligners - a transparent appliance worn over the teeth to move them in a certain direction.
- Removable space maintainers - serve the same purpose as the fixed ones, but have an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, and of plastic or wire branches positioned between specific teeth to maintain the space open for the permanent tooth to erupt.
- Jaw repositioning splints - a plastic appliance worn on either the top or lower teeth (it can cover all the teeth or only a select few ones) used to train the jaw to close properly. The appliance is used in temporomandibular joint disorders.
- Palatal expanders - a plastic plate made to fit over the palate (roof of the mouth), used to widen the upper jaw arcade. The widening process works by screwing (once in 7-10 days) the inside of the center of the expander using a special key.
- Retainers - an appliance attached to the palate used to keep the teeth in the right place, usually after wearing braces.
- Headgear - a removable appliance that is attached to the braces via metal hooks or a face bow. The headgear is kept on the back of the head or neck-through straps or a head cap. The appliance is used to slow back the growth of the upper jaw, thus correcting the overbite.
- The orthodontic appliances are usually worn several months to years, most commonly 18-24 months.
- Using these appliances requires extra care for the teeth and the device as food particles may remain in between both.
- The eating regime may change, possibly for the better.
- You will probably need monthly appointments with your orthodontist.
- The process of realigning the teeth correctly is long and uncomfortable, but the results are usually brilliant when the appliance is worn correctly.
- Wearing the proper appliance for your problem will improve your dental health condition and your aesthetic appearance, providing you with a healthy and beautiful smile.