Your dentist may have discussed with you the benefits of having healthy teeth and proper jaw alignment. 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-confidence and social acceptance.
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful smile. One of every five patients in orthodontic treatment is over 21. Adults also may have experienced some breakdown or loss of the teeth and bone that supports the teeth, and may require periodontal treatment before, during and/or after orthodontic treatment. Bone loss can also limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.
Am I too old for orthodontics? There is no age limit for orthodontics. Orthodontics can successfully realign crooked teeth or a protruding overbite regardless of your age.
Why should I be concerned about a bad bite? Restorations, crowns or bridges are often difficult for a dentist to provide without prior repositioning of the teeth by an orthodontist. Properly aligned and supported teeth are healthier, easier to clean and, therefore, more likely to last throughout a patient's lifetime.
Can my appearance be improved? Yes! Dramatic changes in a person's smile and profile can be achieved. A person can actually look years younger by straightening crooked teeth or correcting an excessive overbite or an underbite. A beautiful smile can increase self-confidence and, in turn, a sense of well being.
It's best for the orthodontist to see children by age seven to advise if orthodontic treatment is required, and the best time for a patient to be treated. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by that time and crossbites, crowding and other problems can be evaluated. When treatment is begun early, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and guide incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems. In other words, early treatment can simplify later treatment.
Orthodontic appliances can be made of metal, ceramic or plastic. They may be removable or they may be brackets bonded to the teeth. By placing a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, braces slowly move teeth to a correct position. This is a great time to wear braces. You can choose the color of the ties that hold the wire in brackets. Wires are also less noticeable than they used to be and the latest materials move teeth faster with less discomfort to patients. Sometimes different orthodontic appliances are needed, along with braces, depending on the individual needs for orthodontic treatment.
Rubber bands are used in conjunction with braces to adjust tooth position and the bite. Sometimes teeth need an extra shove.
The rapid palatal expander is used to expand the palate (roof of mouth). Expansion begins when the patient or parent turns the expansion screw with a special key. This causes the appliance to move apart and, in turn, widen the palate.
The Herbst is designed to encourage the lower jaw to grow forward and catch up with the upper jaw.
Cervical headgear is commonly used to hold the forward growth of the upper jaw. This headgear consists of a neck strap and facebow that fits into the tubes on the upper molar bands.
Reverse pull chin cup used when patient exhibits an underbite. The chin cup holds the forward growth of the lower jaw and encourages the growth of the upper jaw.
Retainers are worn to hold the finished orthodontic result after braces are removed.
An appliance to help correct excess overbite.
Orthodontic correction can vary from the comparatively simple closing of spaces between teeth in a few months to the extensive realignment of crooked teeth. Treatment time typically ranges from one to three years, depending on the growth of the patient's mouth and face and the severity of the problem. Patients grow at different rates and will respond differently to orthodontic treatment, so the time to case completion may vary from the original estimate. The patient's diligent use of any prescribed rubber bands or headgear is an important factor in achieving the most efficient treatment. Interceptive, or early treatment procedures, may take as little as six months.