Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that studies the development, diagnosis, prevention and correction of dental irregularities and malocclusions (uneven bites) in order to enhance functionality and personal appearance.
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in detecting irregular positioning or alignment of the teeth or jaws and prescribes fixed or removable corrective appliances.
A few causes of developmental and jaw alignment problems
- Genetics (main cause)
- Thumb sucking in childhood
- Accidents or trauma
- Premature loss of one or more baby teeth
- Tongue thrusting (placing constant pressure on teeth with one’s tongue)
Many issues can be corrected using orthodontics:
- Crowded or spaced teeth
- Teeth that do not close together properly when chewing (open bite)
- Misaligned jaws
- Too much gum showing when smiling (“gummy” smile)
- Mouth that does not close properly, even at rest
- Asymmetrical smile or face
- Cleft lip or palate (harelip)
- Certain respiratory problems
Why choose orthodontics?
One of the benefits you can expect from orthodontics is a more attractive smile. But did you know that poorly aligned teeth and jaws can also cause functional problems? For example, overcrowded teeth are harder to clean, which can lead to cavities, gum disease and even tooth loss in more serious cases.
In addition, teeth or jaws that do not fit together properly can cause difficulty in chewing resulting in excess tooth wear and pain to the jaw and facial muscles.
When to start treatment?
If a general dentist detects a malocclusion (“bad bite”) in a child, he or she can recommend a visit to the orthodontist, no matter the child’s age. Unless further growth is crucial to the success of a treatment, the orthodontist will let the patient choose the best time to begin the recommended corrective treatment.
However, it is never too late to start orthodontic treatment. Nowadays, adults make up a growing portion of orthodontic clients. Depending on the problem to be corrected, the orthodontist can recommend braces, a removable aligner, a retainer or other type of custom-made appliance.
These devices are made of metal, plastic or ceramic and can be fixed or removable. To carry out the treatment, the dentist may sometimes need to pull out baby teeth or permanent teeth or perform maxillofacial surgery.
Length of treatment
The length of treatment can vary from a few months to a few years depending on different factors, such as:
- The severity of the problem
- The objectives of the chosen treatment and type of appliance used
- The patient’s age, health condition, growth potential and level of cooperation
The latest orthodontic techniques
Today, with 3D modelling, dental professionals can design custom-made orthodontic appliances, including:
- Clear removable appliances that need to be replaced periodically. Their use is generally more limited than traditional braces.
- Lingual braces (brackets placed behind teeth). This treatment is more expensive than traditional braces.
Points to consider
- When undergoing an orthodontic treatment, you will need to pay special attention to your diet and oral hygiene. Once the treatment is over, you will also be required to wear a retainer for a set period of time or indefinitely.
- It is also important to see your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings throughout the full treatment, since orthodontic appliances increase the risk of tooth decalcification and cavities.
- Keep in mind, too, that wearing orthodontic appliances can result in sensitivity, pain and irritation due to the friction of the device against the lining of the mouth.
- A more attractive smile
- Simplified oral hygiene
- Improved mastication
- Better balanced mouth and jaw muscles