Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the correction of improperly positioned teeth and surrounding structures in order to improve functionality and esthetics.
A few causes of improper positioning of teeth and structures
- Genetics (main cause)
- Chronic nasal respiratory problems
- Accidents or trauma involving the teeth, jaw or face
- Premature loss of one or more baby teeth
- Improper tongue posture
- Bad habits, such as thumb or finger sucking
Issues that can be corrected with orthodontics
- Crowded or spaced teeth
- Teeth that do not close together properly when chewing (open bite)
- Misaligned jaws
- “Gummy” smile (too much gum showing when smiling)
- Mouth that does not close properly, even at rest
- Asymmetrical smile or face
- Certain respiratory problems
Why choose orthodontics?
In addition to giving you a more attractive smile, orthodontics can also enhance chewing function and improve the durability of teeth. Better self-esteem is another important reason to undergo orthodontic treatment – in many cases it might just be the deciding factor.
It’s important to understand that poorly aligned teeth and jaws can cause functional problems. For example, overcrowded teeth are harder to clean, which can lead to cavities, gum disease and eventually even tooth loss. Not to mention the negative impact that poor oral health has on overall health.
Orthodontic treatment can also be part of a multidisciplinary approach to treating certain cases of obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed by a doctor.
Why consult an experienced professional first?
There are many factors to consider before starting an orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists are dentists specialized in this area of dentistry and, as such, have unique expertise in dealing with all types of alignment issues involving teeth and jaws. General dentists can also treat some dental irregularities in keeping with their knowledge and skills, and refer patients to an orthodontist as needed.
Certain orthodontic treatments require input from many health professionals to ensure that the outcome has the best chance of success and durability. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons, periodontists (gum specialists), speech therapists, ear-nose-throat doctors and physiotherapists often work together in providing orthodontic treatments.
When to start treatment?
If an irregularity that could compromise the occlusion (bite) or oral-facial development of a child is detected by a dentist during a routine visit, a consultation with an orthodontist will be recommended. Some dental or skeletal issues can be effectively corrected by orthodontic treatment before or during puberty.
However, it’s never too late to start an orthodontic treatment. Nowadays, adults represent a growing proportion of orthodontic clients.
How long does treatment take?
The length of treatment varies from a few months to a few years depending on different factors, such as:
- The severity of the problem
- The treatment goals
- The age, health, growth potential and level of cooperation of the patient
Today’s more esthetic solutions
With 3D modelling, experts can now design orthodontic devices using computer-assisted technology. These include:
- Clear, removable appliances that need to be replaced periodically. This method requires a professional who has received proper training in this area. As with conventional fixed appliances (“braces”), this type of treatment must be preceded by a comprehensive diagnostic exam and involve regular follow-up by a dental professional.
- Lingual “braces” (brackets placed behind teeth). This treatment is more esthetic than traditional “braces,” but will also be more expensive.
The treatment options available all have their own special features and functions. An orthodontist can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each of them and make the best recommendation given the issues identified.
The diagnostic exam and professional follow-up – Two important steps
- When general dentists or orthodontists carry out a diagnostic exam, they assess the health of the teeth, mouth, jaws and surrounding tissue in order to recommend the most appropriate treatment options.
- This exam is a critical step, since it allows the general dentists or the orthodontist to detect all the issues involved and develop the best possible treatment plan.
- During the treatment, the general dentist or orthodontist will also provide follow-up and determine if any adjustments need to be made along the way.
- More attractive smile and better self-esteem
- Oral hygiene made easier
- Improved oral health in the long term
- Better chewing function
- More balanced oral-facial muscles