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    Orthodontics

    Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of jaw, face and bite irregularities (malocclusions*).  Orthodontic treatment is provided by an oral health care provider known as an Orthodontist, who has typically completed two to three years of additional training beyond dental school.

    Recent years have brought about many changes within the dental industry, specifically with regards to orthodontic treatment and care.  Now more than ever patients are experiencing fewer incidences of cavities and missing teeth due to the heightened awareness of fluoride use and preventative dentistry.   This increasing awareness on the health and look of a patient’s smile has fueled the desire for many to seek out orthodontia not only as a medical necessity, but for cosmetic reasons as well.

    Whether it’s traditional braces or custom made removable appliances, orthodontics can help you have the healthy, straight, beautiful smile you’ve been waiting for!

    Give us a call today and schedule your orthodontic consultation!

    *Malocclusion is the technical term for teeth that don’t fit together correctly.  Malocclusions not only affect the teeth, but also the appearance of the face.  Most malocclusions are inherited; however some are due to acquired habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting.  The spacing left from an adult tooth being extracted or an early loss of a baby tooth can also contribute to a malocclusion.

    Common Questions

    What is a 'Malocclusion'?

    A malocclusion is an incorrect relationship between the maxilla (upper arch) and the mandible (lower arch), or a general misalignment of the teeth.  Malocclusions are so common that most individuals experience one, to some degree.  The poor alignment of the teeth is thought to be a result of genetic factors combined with poor oral habits, or other factors in the early years.

    Moderate malocclusion commonly requires treatment by an orthodontist.  Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the treatment of malocclusions and other facial irregularities.

    The following are three main classifications of malocclusion:

    • Class I – The occlusion is typical, but there are spacing or overcrowding problems with the other teeth.
    • Class II – The malocclusion is an overbite (the upper teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth).  This can be caused by the protrusion of anterior teeth or the overlapping of the central teeth by the lateral teeth.
    • Class III – Prognathism (also known as “underbite”) is a malocclusion caused by the lower teeth being positioned further forward than the upper teeth.  An underbite usually occurs when the jawbone is large or the maxillary bone is short.

    Reasons for treating a malocclusion

    A severe malocclusion may lead to skeletal disharmony of the lower face.  In a more extreme case, the orthodontist may work in combination with a maxillofacial dentist to reconstruct the jaw.  It is never too late to seek treatment for a malocclusion.  Children and adults alike have completed orthodontic realignment procedures and have been delighted with the resulting even, straight smile.

    Here are some of the main reasons to seek orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion:

    • Reduced risk of tooth decay – A malocclusion often causes an uneven wear pattern on the teeth.  The constant wearing of the same teeth can lead to tooth erosion and decay.
    • Better oral hygiene – A malocclusion can be caused by overcrowding.  When too many teeth are competing for too little space, it can be difficult to clean the teeth and gums effectively.  It is much easier to clean straight teeth that are properly aligned.
    • Reduced risk of TMJ – Temporomandibular jaw syndrome (TMJ) is thought to be caused by a malocclusion.  Headaches, facial pains and grinding teeth during sleep all result from the excessive pressure to the temporomandibular joint.  Realigning the teeth reduces pressure, and eliminates these symptoms.

    How is a malocclusion treated?

    A malocclusion is usually treated with dental braces.  The orthodontist takes panoramic x-rays, conducts visual examinations and bite impressions of the whole mouth before deciding on the best course of treatment.  If a malocclusion is obviously caused by overcrowding, the orthodontist may decide an extraction is the only way to create enough space for the realignment.  However, in the case of an underbite, crossbite or overbite, there are several different orthodontic appliances available, such as:

    • Fixed multibracket braces – This type of dental braces consists of brackets cemented to each tooth, and an archwire that connects each one.  The orthodontist adjusts or changes the wire on a regular basis to train the teeth into proper alignment.
    • Removable devices – There are many non-fixed dental braces available to treat a malocclusion.  Retainers, headgear and palate expanders are amongst the most common.  Retainers are generally used to hold the teeth in the correct position whilst the jawbone grows properly around them.
    • Invisalign® – These dental aligners are removable and invisible to the naked eye.  Invisalign works in much the same way as fixed dental braces, but do not impact the aesthetics of the smile.  Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

    If you have any questions about malocclusions, please contact our office.

    Who can benefit from Orthodontics?

    Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that is concerned with diagnosing, treating and preventing malocclusions (bad bites) and other irregularities in the jaw region and face.  Orthodontists are specially trained to correct these problems and to restore health, functionality and a beautiful aesthetic appearance to the smile.  Though orthodontics was originally aimed at treating children and teenagers, almost one third of orthodontic patients are now adults.  A person of any age can be successfully treated by an orthodontist.

    A malocclusion (improper bite) can affect anyone at any age, and can significantly impact the individual’s clarity of speech, chewing ability and facial symmetry.  In addition, a severe malocclusion can also contribute to several serious dental and physical conditions such as digestive difficulties, TMJ, periodontal disease and severe tooth decay.  It is important to seek orthodontic treatment early to avoid expensive restorative procedures in the future.

    What problems can orthodontics treat?

    Orthodontics can treat a wide range of dental problems and in most cases, completely realign the teeth.  Orthodontists may work alone, or in combination with a maxillofacial surgeon.

    The typical irregularities requiring orthodontic treatment are as follows:

    • Overcrowding – An overcrowded mouth means there is insufficient space within the jaw for all of the adult teeth to fit naturally.  Overcrowding may lead to displaced, rotated or completely misaligned teeth.
    • Overbite – An overbite refers to the protrusion of the maxilla (upper jaw) relative to the mandible (lower jaw).  An overbite gives the smile a “toothy” appearance and the chin looks like it has receded.
    • Underbite – An underbite, also known as a negative underjet, refers to the protrusion of the mandible (lower jaw) in relation to the maxilla (upper jaw).  An underbite makes the chin look overly prominent. Developmental delays and genetic factors generally cause underbites and overbites.

    How can orthodontics help?

    Orthodontic dentistry offers techniques which will realign the teeth and revitalize the smile.  There are several treatments the orthodontist may use, depending on the results of panoramic x-rays, study models (bite impressions) and a thorough visual examination.

    Fixed dental braces can be used to expediently correct even the most severe case of misalignment.  These braces consist of metal or ceramic brackets which are affixed to each tooth and an archwire which is used to gradually move the teeth through the duration of the treatment.

    Removable appliances include headgear (which consists of a metal wire device attached to customized braces), retainers, Invisalign® aligners (which are almost invisible to the naked eye), palate expanders and tooth movers.  Faceguards are generally used to correct developmental delays in both the upper and lower jaw, and palate expanders are used to combat overcrowding.

    Whatever the dental irregularity or the age of the individual, orthodontic appliances can properly realign the teeth and create a beautiful smile.

    If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontic treatments or how they can benefit you, please contact our office.

    Braces for Children

    Many children are ambivalent about getting braces.  On the one hand, they like the idea of perfect teeth, but on the other hand they are nervous about whether the braces will cause pain and discomfort.  The good news is that the placement of orthodontic braces is not at all painful, and the end result will be a beautiful straight smile.

    Although patients of any age can benefit from orthodontic braces, they tend to work much quicker on pre-teens and teenagers since they are still experiencing jaw growth.  The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should first see an orthodontist around the age of seven years-old.  An orthodontic examination may be beneficial before age seven if facial or oral irregularities are noted.

    What Causes misalignment of teeth?

    Poorly aligned teeth often cause problems speaking, biting and chewing.  Most irregularities are genetic or occur as a result of developmental issues.  Conversely, some irregularities are acquired or greatly exacerbated by certain habits and behaviors such as:

    • Mouth breathing
    • Thumb or finger sucking
    • Prolonged pacifier use
    • Poor oral hygiene
    • Poor nutrition

    What’s involved when a child gets braces?

    The orthodontist initially conducts a visual examination of the child’s teeth.  This will be accompanied by panoramic x-rays, study models (bite impressions) and computer generated images of the head and neck.  These preliminary assessments are sometimes known as the “planning phase” because they aid the orthodontist in making a diagnosis and planning the most effective treatment.

    In many cases, the orthodontist will recommend “fixed” orthodontic braces for a child.  Fixed braces cannot be lost, forgotten or removed at will, which means that treatment is completed more quickly.  Removable appliances may also be utilized, which are less intrusive, and are generally used to treat various types of defects.

    Here is a brief overview of some of the main types of orthodontic appliances used for children:

    • Fixed braces – Braces comprised of brackets which are affixed to each individual tooth, and an archwire which connect the brackets.  The brackets are usually made of metal, ceramic, or a clear synthetic material which is less noticeable to the naked eye.  After braces have been applied, the child will have regular appointments to have the braces adjusted by the orthodontist.  Orthodontic elastic bands are often added to the braces to aid in the movement of specific teeth.
    • Headgear – This type of appliance is most useful to treat developmental irregularities.  A headgear is a custom-made appliance attached to wire that is worn to aid in tooth movement.  A headgear is intended to be worn for 12-20 hours r each day and must be worn as recommended to achieve good results.
    • Retainers – Retainers are typically utilized in the third phase (retention phase).  When the original malocclusion has been treated with braces, it is essential that the teeth do not regress back to the original misalignment.  Wearing a retainer ensures the teeth maintain their proper alignment, and gives the jawbone around the teeth a chance to stabilize.

    If you have questions about braces for children, please contact our office.

    Braces for Adults

    Orthodontic braces were historically associated with teenagers.  Today, an increasing number of adults are choosing to wear braces to straighten their teeth and correct malocclusions (bad bites).  In fact, it is now estimated that almost one third of all current orthodontic patients are adults.

    Orthodontic braces are predictable, versatile and incredibly successful at realigning the teeth.  Braces work in the same way regardless of the age of the patient, but the treatment time is greatly reduced in patients who are still experiencing jaw growth and have not been affected by gum disease.  In short, an adult can experience the same beautiful end results as a teenager, but treatment often takes longer.

    Can adults benefit from orthodontic braces?

    Absolutely! Crooked or misaligned teeth look unsightly, which in many cases leads to poor self esteem and a lack of self confidence.  Aside from poor aesthetics, improperly aligned teeth can also cause difficulties biting, chewing and articulating clearly.  Generally speaking, orthodontists agree that straight teeth tend to be healthier teeth.

    Straight teeth offer a multitude of health and dental benefits including:

    • Reduction in general tooth decay
    • Decreased likelihood of developing periodontal disease
    • Decreased likelihood of tooth injury
    • Reduction in digestive disorders

    Fortunately, orthodontic braces have been adapted and modified to make them more convenient for adults.  There are now a wide range of fixed and removable orthodontic devices available, depending on the precise classification of the malocclusion.

    The most common types of malocclusion are underbite (lower teeth protrude further than upper teeth), overbite (upper teeth protrude further than lower teeth) and overcrowding, where there is insufficient space on the arches to accommodate the full complement of adult teeth.

    Prior to recommending specific orthodontic treatment, the orthodontist will recommend treatment of any pre-existing dental conditions such as gum disease, excess plaque and tooth decay.  Orthodontic braces can greatly exacerbate any or all of these conditions.

    What are the main types of orthodontic braces?

    The following are some of the most popular orthodontic braces:

    • Traditional braces – These braces are strong and tend not to stain the teeth.  They are comprised of individual brackets which are cemented to each tooth and accompanied by an archwire which constantly asserts gentle pressure on the teeth.  Traditional braces are generally metal but are also available in a clear synthetic material and “tooth colored” ceramic.  The ceramic brackets are generally more comfortable than the metal alternative, but can become discolored by coffee, wine, smoking and certain foods.
    • Invisalign® – Invisalign aligners are favored by many adults because they are both removable and invisible to onlookers.  Invisalign® aligners are clear trays, and should be worn for the recommended amount of time each day for the quickest results.  Invisalign® aligners are more comfortable and less obtrusive than traditional braces, but also tend to be more costly.  Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.
    • Lingual braces – These appliances are usually metal and fixed on the tongue side of the teeth, therefore not seen when a patient smiles.  Lingual braces tend to be moderately expensive and in some cases, can interfere with normal speech.

    If you have any questions about orthodontic braces, please contact our office.

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