Orthodontics - An Overview
Orthodontics is a special discipline of dentistry concerned with aligning the teeth and jaws to improve one’s smile and overall oral health. “Ortho” means correct or straight, and “odont” means tooth. A dentist will recommend braces to improve the patient’s physical appearance and function of the teeth and jaws, if the teeth are crooked and misaligned, or the jaws are of unequal size. This condition is referred to as malocclusion, which comes from a Latin word meaning ‘bad bite’.
While the majority of orthodontic cases involve braces, there are alternatives that may be used for younger children or adults. Arch expanders for younger children can minimize or eliminate the need for braces when the problem is treated early enough.
Myo-functional Appliances utilize muscle forces to redirect and guide normal growth and development thereby minimizing jaw discrepancies; if treated during growth period.Invisible, clear plastic retainers, instead of braces, can be used by adults for mild to moderate crowding problems.
How do I Know if I Need Orthodontics?
If you have any of the following, you may be a candidate for orthodontic treatment:
- Overbite, sometimes called “buck teeth” — where the upper front teeth lie too far forward (stick out) over the lower teeth
- Underbite — a “bulldog” appearance where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth too far back
- Crossbite — when the upper teeth do not come down slightly in front of the lower teeth when biting together normally
- Open bite — space between the biting surfaces of the front and/or side teeth when the back teeth bite together
- Misplaced midline— when the center of your upper front teeth does not line up with the center of your lower front teeth
- Spacing — gaps, or spaces, between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that do not “fill up” the mouth
- Crowding — when there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate
Many different types of appliances, both fixed and removable, are used to help move teeth, retrain muscles and affect the growth of the jaws. These appliances work by placing gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws. The severity of your problem will determine which orthodontic approach is likely to be the most effective.
Bands are fixed around the teeth or tooth and used as anchors for the appliance, while brackets are most often bonded to the front of the tooth. They come in bright colors for kids as well as clear styles preferred by many adults.
Special fixed appliances
Fixed space maintainers
If a baby tooth is lost prematurely, a space maintainer is used to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. A band is attached to the tooth next to the empty space, and a wire is extended to the tooth on the other side of the space.