When should treatment start?
If a dentist detects an anomaly that could later result in malocclusion, he or she can refer the patient to the orthodontist as early as age 7.
However, it is never too late to begin orthodontic treatment; in fact, adults currently account for about one-quarter of orthodontic patients. Unless the patient's growth is crucial to the success of a treatment, orthodontists let their patients choose the best time to begin treatment.
Depending on the treatment required, the orthodontist may prescribe braces, a retainer or another type of fixed or removable custom appliance. These appliances may be made of metal, plastic or ceramic. It may be necessary to extract primary or permanent teeth or undergo maxillofacial surgery.
The length of most treatments varies from six months to four years, depending on:
- the severity of the problem
- the goal of the treatment
- the patient’s oral health
- the patient’s age
New orthodontic techniques
Three-dimensional modelling now makes it possible to design customized “invisible” braces. There are two main kinds of invisible braces:
- A series of removable clear braces, replaced every two or three weeks. Their use is more limited than traditional metal braces.
- Lingual, or behind-the-teeth, braces or brackets: this type of treatment gives about the same results as traditional methods, but is usually more expensive.
- Patients must pay close attention to diet and oral hygiene. Once the treatment is finished, they may have to wear a retainer for several hours a day for a certain time or the rest of their lives.
- It is important to maintain good oral hygiene throughout the treatment, since wearing orthodontic appliances can increase the risk of food retention, decalcification and cavities.
- Wearing orthodontic appliances can be painful and irritate the mouth, when they rub on the oral mucosa.
- Better chewing
- Better balance in jaw muscles
- Simpler oral hygiene
- A nicer smile