While some are lucky enough to have straight teeth through genetics, the rest of us will commit to modern orthodontics to get the smile we want. A good smile is important to many people along with the functionality of your teeth and bite.
Benefits of an Orthodontic Treatment
Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This can result in tooth decay, worsen gum disease and lead to tooth loss. Other orthodontic problems can contribute to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, inefficient chewing function, excessive stress on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth, or misalignment of the jaw joints. These can lead to chronic headaches and face or neck pain. Treatment by an orthodontist can be less costly than the additional care required to treat dental problems arising as a result of orthodontic problems. For most people, a beautiful smile is the most obvious benefit of Orthodontics. After your braces come off, you’ll feel more self-confident.
Most people believe that braces are for kids only. The truth is, with better dental health awareness and improvement in the orthodontic treatment techniques and materials, more adults are seeking treatment with almost half of all orthodontic patients being over 21 years of age. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the number of patients in the 40 to 50 years age group in recent years.
While treatment can be done at any age, there is usually a best age to begin treatment in order to achieve maximum improvement with the minimum amount of time and expense. Most authorities recommend that the child’s first visit to the orthodontist should be between 7 to 8 years of age. Early examination allows the orthodontist to detect and evaluate any problems in dental development and jaw growth and plan appropriate treatment. In most cases, treatment need not be necessary until a few years later. However, early interceptive treatment may be initiated in some cases to prevent more serious problems from developing and make treatment at a later age easier.
Signs that your child may need to see an orthodontist are
- reverse bite (all the lower front teeth biting in front of the upper front teeth)
- cross-bite (one or more lower teeth in reverse bite)
- deep bite (upper teeth overlapping the lower teeth completely)
- protruding front teeth
- crowded teeth
- un-erupted or missing teeth (especially if teeth from only one side are missing)
- thumb or finger sucking past age 5 to 6
- early loss of baby teeth.
Interceptive treatment may involve
- habit correction e.g. to break thumb sucking habit
- jaw growth modification to encourage growth of small jaws or hold back excessive growth
- jaw expansion for narrow upper jaw due mainly to mouth breathing habit
- simple fixed or removable braces for a short period of treatment to correct cross-bite, crowded teeth, deep bite and reduce possibility of trauma to protruding teeth
- guidance of tooth eruption, to regain space and maintain space for erupting teeth.
Will extraction of teeth fix the problem?
Most patients hold the idea that extractions of teeth are necessary in orthodontic treatment. With proper diagnosis and setting of treatment goals, correct timing and sequencing of treatment, proper application and control of the orthodontic appliances, extractions can be avoided in more than two-thirds of the patients. Extractions of teeth are recommended only in severe cases. Unnecessary extractions may result in over-retraction of front teeth and create a “dished-in” profile.
And for how long?
Treatment duration varies according to many factors. Depending on the treatment objectives and severity of the problems, it can range from a few months to two years or more. On the average, comprehensive orthodontic treatment takes about slightly over a year to two years for both children and adults. Other factors that will influence the length of treatment time are the regularity and frequency of attendance by the patient, care and maintenance of the braces by the patient and compliance to instructions during the course of treatment. Although treatment of similar problems in adults may generally take a little longer than in children, the better cooperation and compliance from adults can sometimes more than make up for this disadvantage.
Treatment duration aside, a desire to seek improvement and a positive attitude towards treatment are essential. A healthy set of teeth and a great smile for the rest of your life will more than justify the short period of time invested.
Two-phase orthodontic treatment is a very specialized process that encompasses tooth straightening and physical, facial changes. The major advantage of a two-phase treatment is to maximize the opportunity to accomplish the ideal healthy, functional, aesthetic result that will remain stable throughout your life.
The goal of first phase treatment is to develop the jaw size in order to accommodate all the permanent teeth and to relate the upper and lower jaws to each other. Children sometimes exhibit early signs of jaw problems as they grow and develop. An upper and lower jaw that is growing too much or not enough can be recognized at an early age. If children after age 6 are found to have this jaw discrepancy, they are candidates for early orthodontic treatment. Leaving such a condition untreated until all permanent teeth erupt could result in a jaw discrepancy too severe to achieve an ideal result with braces. A successful first phase will have created room for teeth to find an eruption path. It is best to allow the existing permanent teeth some freedom of movement while final eruption of teeth occurs.
The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has an exact location in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. When this equilibrium is established, the teeth will function together properly. The second phase is initiated when all permanent teeth have erupted, and usually requires braces on all the teeth for an average of 24 months. Retainers are worn after this phase to ensure you retain your beautiful smile.
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