What is Orthodontics? How Do I know if I Need Orthodontics?
While many people think Orthodontics is simply straightening teeth and making a pretty smile, but that is only part of this dental specialty. Besides improving your smile, orthodontics work to treat malocclusions and misalignments.
Things like overlapping teeth, protruding teeth, or spaces in between teeth can simply be cosmetic, but they can also cause dental issues. Problems such as irregular jaw growth, extra teeth, and overcrowding of teeth may not be noticeable when you smile but they may contribute to health concerns, such as difficulty eating, chewing or speaking, headaches, and premature dental wear and tear.
Orthodontists work not only to provide you with the best smile, but also together with your dentist they ensure your teeth are healthy and not causing you any potential medical or dental issues.
What is an Orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a traditional dentist that chooses to go through an additional residency program for two to three years, focusing their knowledge on the safe movement of teeth and the development of your jaws, and face, and profile. They focus their practice on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are often able to identify dental issues before they become a problem and take proactive treatment measures.
General dentistry is straightforward. You have tooth decay, you get a filling. Orthodontics is a much more individualized specialty and no treatment plan is the same. An orthodontist meets with each patient and creates a custom treatment plan. Orthodontists treat patients of all ages, including children. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children see an orthodontist by the time they are 7. Seeing an orthodontist as a child allows the orthodontist to see and treat any possible abnormalities before they become a problem.
How Do I Know if I Need Orthodontics? When To See an Orthodontist?
The answer is you might not always know.
In many cases, your dentist may notice abnormalities in your teeth and refer you to an orthodontist for an evaluation. But there are some signs you can see for yourself that might point to the need for orthodontics. If you have an overbite or underbite that is prominent, gaps or overlapping teeth; if you experience trouble chewing, unexplained headaches, or it seems like your teeth just don’t line up.
If you have any of the following, you may be a candidate for orthodontic treatment:
Overbite or Deep bite
Abnormal tooth eruption
Discrepancy between the length of the upper and lower jaws
These could all point to the need for orthodontic care. While some of these issues may seem simply cosmetic in nature, they can contribute to underlying issues as well. For example, overlapping or crowded teeth can make brushing your teeth difficult. Improper brushing can further lead to early tooth decay and gingivitis.
Different Types of Orthodontic Treatments
Every patient is unique and so are their orthodontic needs. Not every treatment will work for every patient. You and your orthodontist will work together to create a treatment plan that best meets your orthodontic needs as well as your lifestyle. Some of the orthodontic treatment options include:
Traditional Braces – Traditional braces are made from stainless steel brackets that are attached to each tooth and linked together by a wire. This setup places gentle pressure on the teeth to cause them to slowly move into the desired position. Treatment with traditional braces can go from at little as 6 months to 3 or more years, depending on the initial diagnosis and treatment needs.
Ceramic Braces – Ceramic braces work in the same manner as traditional braces, except the brackets are made from a transparent ceramic material, making the braces a little less noticeable.
Invisalign – Invisalign is an alternative to traditional braces and features clear aligners that slip over the teeth, similar to a mouth guard but much thinner. These aligners are custom-made and changed weekly, or as directed by your orthodontist. Each change of the aligner slowly moves the teeth into their desired position. One benefit of Invisalign is they can be removed for eating, drinking, dental hygiene, and special occasions. Treatment plans typically run from 1 to 2 years or more years, depending once again on the initial diagnosis and treatment needs.
Palatal Expander – A palatal expander widens the upper jaw by applying pressure to the upper molars. Palatal expanders are used to treat issues such as crossbites, overcrowding of teeth, narrow smile, and gaining more space for impacted teeth so they to erupt in proper position. The average time for wearing a palatal expander is 6 to 9 months.
Herbst Appliance – The Herbst appliance is primarily used in younger, growing children and is designed to treat severe distance between upper and lower teeth. The appliance is fixed to the teeth and gently encourages the lower jaw forward while moving the upper molars backward. Typical treatment lasts between 12 and 15 months.
Retainers – Retainers are given at the end of orthodontic treatment. While braces/Invisalign slowly works to move the teeth into the desired position, retainers keep the teeth in their final position and place, allowing your teeth to settle into the jawbone and soft tissue. Retainers can be fixed or removable appliances. Teeth shift with aging and the recommended retainer wear is usually for life.
All orthodontic treatment plans are based on individual needs and no treatment plan in the same. You may need one of these listed treatments, a combination of them, or something entirely different. When you meet with a specialist, they will go over your dental records, x-rays, and perform an examination. Together with your orthodontist, you can develop a treatment plan that works best for you and your lifestyle.
Have You Ever Had an Orthodontic Treatment (Braces, Invisalign, Palatal Expander, Herbst etc)? If so, Do You Still Wear Your Retainers? Comment Below!
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