Orthodontic treatment is a straightening or moving of teeth in a correct direction. The goal is to improve the appearance and function of the stomatognathic system, i. e. system of chewing, by distributing strains evenly. Not only does orthodontic treatment improve appearance, but also helps keep gums, teeth and the jaw joint healthy.
Many people have crowded or crooked teeth. During orthodontic treatment the teeth are moved into a better position. This can not only improve their appearance and give self confidence, but also many other problems, including caries, since straight teeth are easier to clean. People with straight teeth have less interdental decay and less periodontal problems.
In some patients the upper front teeth can stick out and look unsightly. These ‘prominent’ teeth are more susceptible to trauma. Using orthodontic treatment, a smooth straight dental arch can be created. In others, the way the upper and lower jaws meet can cause teeth to look unsightly and lead to an incorrect bite, wear of tooth cusps, decay and prosthetic treatment can be compromised later on. Orthodontic treatment may be able to correct all these problems.
When the bite is incorrect, this can put strain on the muscles of the jaw, causing wear of the jaw, headaches, pain of shoulder, back and neck muscles. Orthodontic treatment can help you bite more evenly and reduce muscle strain.
It is most often carried out in children, when any movement of the teeth and bite corrections can be achieved easily. However, orthodontic treatment can also be successfully done in adults. Using proper appliances and materials and with proper cooperation, great results can be achieved. More and more patients worldwide are experiencing the benefits of this treatment. It is important to know that age is less important than having the proper number of teeth to provide anchorage.
Any general dental practitioner can carry out simple corrections after finishing orthodontic courses, but generally orthodontics is carried by specialists orthodontists.
One of the most important stages of orthodontic treatment is analysis of bite anomalies and their causes using X-rays. The second important stage is treatment planning. Before starting treatment, teeth are examined, several X-rays and dental impressions are taken, a detailed treatment plan is drawn up, where all bite problems and optimal treatment methods are discussed. Your dentist will be happy to explain all possible treatment methods.
Occasionally during orthodontic treatment, when the teeth are severely crowded, i. e. there is not enough space, in order to create a correct straight bite, some teeth have to be extracted.
Luckily, most often other methods are available to make room for the teeth. Your orthodontist will help you pick the best option.
Orthodontic treatment can be done by many sorts of appliances, most often fixed braces and removable appliances.
Treatment may be carried out with a removable appliance – a plate that can be taken out to be cleaned. A removable appliance is a plastic orthodontic appliance with particular metal hooks and arches, used to adjust incorrect or insufficient tooth growth.
It has small hooks and screws to gently push teeth in a correct position. Removable appliances are convenient to remove and clean. By wearing a removable appliance correctly, i. e. as prescribed by the orthodontist, great results can be achieved. However, if removable appliances are worn only for short periods, are put in or taken out incorrectly or do not mould the teeth closely enough, treatment becomes ineffective.
Functional appliances are used to change the way the lower jaw or the jaw joint grows to correct the profile of the face. These appliances work by relaxing muscles and stretching tendons – much like yoga.
When teeth need to be guided more accurately, removable orthodontic appliances might now be enough. Braces are then used. These are small metal rectangles bonded to each tooth separately. They have the movement of each tooth built-in. Braces are bonded to each tooth and joined by a wire. The flexible wire joins the braces and makes teeth move in a certain direction. The patient cannot take out the braces and wears them throughout the whole treatment.
Most often braces are made of metal. However, it is not always the case. Adults often choose aesthetic plastic or ceramic braces.
There are also braces bonded on the inner surfaces of teeth so that they are completely indiscernible.
It may be necessary to attach elastic bands (elastics) to a fixed brace to help move the teeth. Elastics are removable, so their effect depends of the level of cooperation between the doctor and the patient.
The duration of orthodontic treatment depends on individual factors. It is important whether the patient is still growing, also the type of the initial bite problem. The treatment can take anywhere from a several months to two or two and a half years. Most people can be treated in one to two years. Your orthodontist will give you an estimate after having examined your teeth and X-rays.
After the treatment period when the teeth are in their correct positions, they have to be kept in place for a while. This period is called retentive period, appliances used – retentive appliances (retainers). These appliances help keep teeth in their new positions until soft tissue adapt and new bone tissue forms around the teeth. Retainers can be fixed or removable.
Usually orthodontic appliances need to be activated and adjusted every 4-6 weeks. Your orthodontist will inform when you need to visit again after evaluating teeth positions and the results of last activation.
Any new oral appliance, be it braces or removable appliances, create some discomfort in the beginning; you may feel some pressure, the teeth may become sensitive to hard food, a removable appliance may hinder speech a bit. Usually, in a few weeks patients adapt. If you experience discomfort, your orthodontist will perform corrections necessary to make you feel comfortable.
Even after the most successful treatment the teeth might move slightly. It mostly depends on patient’s age, but can also be influenced by environmental factors. An orthodontist cannot give any guarantees concerning a living, developing organism. The additional factors include bruxism (grinding of teeth), harmful habits, poorly fitting prostheses, smoking, improper breathing, hormonal imbalance, use of contraceptives, etc. Still it can be said that most patients leave completely satisfied by orthodontic treatment. Usually the results of orthodontic treatment stay for life.
Teeth can be damaged only if not cleaned properly. Braces themselves do not harm teeth. Erosions and decay of enamel is caused by bacteria in dental plaque. They cause white or brown stains around the braces, i. e. in the hardest places to clean. Orthodontic appliances do not damage teeth, but can hinder cleaning. Brush teeth thoroughly as recommended by your dentist. Avoid food with a lot of sugar and frequent snacking – that way you will be able to enjoy a gorgeous smile and white glistening teeth.
Friend of your teeth, Amicus Dentis