A specialist in this field is called an orthodontist. Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that corrects teeth and jaws that are positioned improperly. Crooked teeth and teeth that do not fit together correctly are harder to keep clean, are at risk of being lost early due to tooth decay and periodontal disease, and cause extra stress on the chewing muscles that can lead to headaches, TMJ syndrome and neck, shoulder and back pain. Teeth that are crooked or not in the right place can also detract from one's appearance.
The benefits of orthodontic treatment include a healthier mouth, a more pleasing appearance, and teeth that are more likely to last a lifetime.
How Does Orthodontic Treatment Work?
Many different types of appliances, both fixed and removable, are used to help move teeth, retrain muscles and affect the growth of the jaws. These appliances work by placing gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws. The severity of your problem will determine which orthodontic approach is likely to be the most effective.
Fixed appliances include:
- Braces — the most common fixed appliances, braces consist of bands, wires and/or brackets. Bands are fixed around the teeth or tooth and used as anchors for the appliance, while brackets are most often bonded to the front of the tooth. Arch wires are passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. Tightening the arch wire puts tension on the teeth, gradually moving them to their proper position. Braces are usually adjusted monthly to bring about the desired results, which may be achieved within a few months to a few years. Today's braces are smaller, lighter and show far less metal than in the past. They come in bright colors for kids as well as clear styles preferred by many adults.
- Special fixed appliances — used to control thumb sucking or tongue thrusting, these appliances are attached to the teeth by bands. Because they are very uncomfortable during meals, they should be used only as a last resort.
- Fixed space maintainers — if a baby tooth is lost prematurely, a space maintainer is used to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. A band is attached to the tooth next to the empty space, and a wire is extended to the tooth on the other side of the space.
Removable appliances include:
- Aligners — an alternative to traditional braces for adults, serial aligners are being used by an increasing number of orthodontists to move teeth in the same way that fixed appliances work, only without metal wires and brackets. Aligners are virtually invisible and are removed for eating, brushing and flossing.
- Removable space maintainers — these devices serve the same function as fixed space maintainers. They're made with an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, and have plastic or wire branches between specific teeth to keep the space between them open.
- Jaw repositioning appliances — also called splints, these devices are worn on either the top or lower jaw, and help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position. They may be used for temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ).
- Lip and cheek bumpers — these are designed to keep the lips or cheeks away from the teeth. Lip and cheek muscles can exert pressure on the teeth, and these bumpers help relieve that pressure.
- Palatal expander — a device used to widen the arch of the upper jaw. It is a plastic plate that fits over the roof of the mouth. Outward pressure applied to the plate by screws force the joints in the bones of the palate to open lengthwise, widening the palatal area.
- Removable retainers — worn on the roof of the mouth, these devices prevent shifting of the teeth to their previous position. They can also be modified and used to prevent thumb sucking.
- Headgear — with this device, a strap is placed around the back of the head and attached to a metal wire in front, or face bow. Headgear slows the growth of the upper jaw, and holds the back teeth where they are while the front teeth are pulled back.
When will my smile be perfect?
We will give you a very good estimate of the treatment time at your first visit with us as well as the total investment you will make in your new smile. We choose the most efficient and comfortable appliances and techniques for you and schedule appointments to complete treatment as fast as possible. It’s rare to take longer than two years and depending on age and the issues that need addressing, you could be finished in less than a year.
What is Invisalign® and how does it work?
Invisalign® is a brand of invisible aligners, that work in a series and are custom-made to your mouth. They look similar to teeth-whitening trays. Each aligner set in the series will make slight adjustments to the position of your teeth. This process is mapped out, in advance, by our specialists. After approximately 2 weeks, you will progress to the next set of aligners, and continue the teeth straightening process until you are finished using all of the aligner sets.
How often will I need to visit?
On average your brace will need adjusting every 4 to 6 weeks, but this will vary depending on what stage of treatment you are in and what type of brace you have.
Do you offer Orthodontic treatment for adults?
One in every five Orthodontics patients is an adult. With healthy gums and bone structure, teeth can be straightened at any age. Adults also look to Orthodontics to facilitate periodontal, cosmetic and restorative work and help prevent the need for dental restoration later in life. We offer a wide selection of treatments to meet the individual needs and desires of each of our adult patients.
Is there any pain involved with Orthodontic treatment?
For some patients, when braces are fitted or after each appliance adjustment, there can be a slight achiness of the teeth, but this goes away after 3 or 4 days. For some patients a mild analgesic such as paracetamol can be used. Each Orthodontics patient will receive a complimentary amenity pack including special brushes to help keep teeth nice and clean. The pack also contains special wax to put on the brace if it catches the cheek which can happen occasionally, especially when you are getting used to a new brace.
Are there any risks with Orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontics is one of the least invasive ways to improve your smile and is suitable for almost everyone. We carefully check to see if there are any reasons why you should not undertake treatment and will explain any risks to you. Plaque left on teeth can scar them, so during treatment you will need to take a little more care to keep your teeth clean.
What are Interceptive Orthodontics?
Interceptive Orthodontics are a Phase or Stage type of Orthodontics whereby growth is utilised to correct developmental occlusion problems. Staging the treatment can correct immediate problems and future issues. This treatment practice implies diagnosing and treating malocclusions as soon as they are detected. It is recommended that children should have an Orthodontic assessment no later than the age of seven.
When is it best for children to first see a Specialist Orthodontist?
We like to meet patients at age eight to nine years in order to plan the best time for treatment. This is especially important if facial growth guidance is needed. An early diagnosis of certain problems can dramatically reduce the amount of treatment needed. We are, of course, happy to meet your child or teenager at whatever point you or your dentist should seek our specialist opinion. We also welcome patients who are new to the area for continuing orthodontic care.
Why should I use a specialist consultant-level Orthodontist?
Since there is so much more to the perfect smile than simply straight teeth, it is important to have a specialist make the assessment. For children, managing the shape and development of their jaws can be vitally important for improving facial aesthetics and ensuring the best possible results as they grow. And for adults, treatment can often be more complicated because the jaws have stopped growing. Only a Specialist Orthodontist is trained to know the best solution.