You've heard the word 'orthodontics' before, but what does it mean and how can an orthodontist help you? Here, our orthodontists at Toothworks at Square One explain the basics of this dental specialty.
What is Orthodontics?
Within the field of dentistry, orthodontics is a specialty that focuses on treating irregularities in teeth (especially irregularities involving improper positioning, alignment and occlusion) and jaws.
Conditions such as crooked or overcrowded teeth, overbites or underbites and jaw misalignments can cause issues with oral health and lead to serious problems with eating, speech and quality of life.
In these cases, orthodontists will recommend treatment to reposition teeth slowly and gradually so they are straighter. This leaves the patient with a more symmetrical smile.
Whether orthodontic issues crop up due to genetic or hereditary factors or because of injuries or bad habits, it's important to treat them as soon as possible. Resolving issues with a misaligned jaw, a "bad bite" or gaps between teeth can reduce a patient's oral health risks, improve function and appearance of teeth and increase quality of life.
What are some common orthodontic treatments?
Your dentist or orthodontist can diagnose your orthodontic issue and recommend one (or a combination) of these orthodontic treatments to help resolve it:
- Orthodontic braces
- Oral surgery
- Head gear
- Clear aligners
- Removable appliances
Each of these will require a threefold effort on the part of the orthodontist, the dentist and the patient to achieve proper results, as each of these treatment methods requires care and maintenance.
What are the benefits of orthodontic treatments?
People of any age can benefit from orthodontic treatment. If your teeth are positioned improperly or misaligned, your risk of gum disease and tooth decay increases.
Your teeth may also be more difficult to floss, which can lead to poor oral hygiene as you get older – which can negatively affect your oral health and your overall health.
Effective orthodontic treatments can:
- Fix improper bites
- Improve oral function (including speech and eating)
- Straighten crooked teeth
- Properly align your teeth and jaw
- Close gaps between teeth
- Ensure crowded teeth are appropriately spaced
How do I know if I need orthodontic treatment?
If your jaw is misaligned or you have crowded, crooked, protruding or missing teeth, you may notice some difficulty with eating, chewing foods or speaking. Patients can also sometimes experience pain or muscle tension, or painful symptoms in their jaw if the problem is related to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Disorder.
Your dentist may also review your dental history, or mention issues with your bite or jaw during a regular oral examination, and refer you to an orthodontist who can meet your needs by developing a custom treatment plan.
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Because each patient is different, your orthodontist will estimate the duration of your treatment based on your specific case.
The severity of your orthodontic issue, your age, the treatment method used and other factors can influence how long your treatment will take. Generally, you’ll visit your dentist or orthodontist regularly for a period of months or years.
Adults typically take longer to treat than teens or children. Most people will wear orthodontic braces for approximately 2 years. You’ll receive specific instructions from your orthodontist to help you achieve the intended results from your treatment.