The highly specialized field of dentistry known as orthodontics helps to diagnose, prevent, and treat irregularities in your teeth. This is done using dental appliances such as braces in order to correct an irregular bite. At times, orthodontics may also be used to assist with other dental procedures, such as dental implants or certain cosmetic dentistry procedures.
Orthodontics are more than cosmetic
Many people think of having a proper bite as a purely cosmetic problem. As a result, there are many who live with bite issues such as crowding, under-bites, or overbites without treatment. However, seeking orthodontic treatment for these issues can greatly improve your dental health. It is far easier to correctly brush and floss teeth that are properly aligned, which reduces the risk of serious dental health issues such as tooth decay and gingivitis. Both of these issues can damage your gums, which may lead to periodontitis, which can destroy the underlying bone that supports your teeth, causing tooth loss.
An incorrect bite may also make it more difficult to speak or chew properly, particularly as you age. A poorly aligned bite may cause your back teeth to become worn more quickly, which can become increasingly uncomfortable and may lead to more serious dental problems later on.
Who best benefits from Orthodontic treatment?
While many parents tend to wait until their children are preteens or teenagers before seeking orthodontic treatment, the ideal age is far younger. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that initial orthodontic screenings should be performed no later than age seven. It’s best not to wait until all of the permanent teeth are in the mouth, for a number of reasons. There are devices that can be used to help ensure permanent teeth are allowed to erupt straighter, preventing the need for more expensive treatments later on.
Most patients are good candidates for orthodontic treatments, and there is no age limit. Today, the number of adults seeking treatment is rapidly increasing as more devices begin to be developed to straighten and treat adult teeth and bite issues. Though these treatments sometimes have a greater risk of complications, they are generally considered well worth it by both dentists and patients.
What dental issues do Orthodontics treat?
Orthodontics are designed to treat a number of bite problems:
- Cross-bite – the upper teeth rest inside or outside the lower teeth. This can make it quite difficult to chew properly, and often leads to problems in the jaw later on.
- Crowding – permanent teeth do not have the room to move into the correct position, either because the jaw is narrower than it should be or the teeth are unusual large for the size of the mouth.
- Overbite – the upper teeth overlap far beyond the lower teeth. This may cause the biting edges of the upper teeth to touch the front gum tissue, or the lower teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth.
- Under-bite – the lower teeth are ahead of the upper teeth. This may a sign that the jaw is incorrectly positioned.
- Open bite – the teeth do not meet when you bite down. This can make it impossible to bite into food properly, and may affect speech as well.
- Spacing – large spaces between teeth, whether caused by having unusually small teeth or missing teeth are a common problem treated with orthodontics.
Orthodontic treatment procedures
Generally, orthodontic treatment consists of having braces placed (the active phase of treatment), followed by wearing a retainer for a period of time (the retention phase). In some cases, however, special orthodontic appliances may be used to direct jaw growth in younger children.
Today braces can be made from plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and your orthodontist will discuss the merits of each before helping you choose which is right for you. Once applied, the braces will apply constant pressure in order to move the teeth in the desired direction. This process can take anywhere between one and three years, depending on how severe the bite issue is. As the teeth change position, your orthodontist will make adjustments to the braces.
Once your braces are removed, you may be asked to wear a retainer for a longer period time, usually until your wisdom teeth erupt and are removed. This ensures that the bone and gums are allowed to stabilize around the teeth. Failing to follow your dentist’s instructions during this step can lead to your teeth shifting back into their original positions, or cause other serious dental issues.
Are braces painful?
You may feel some minor discomfort for the first few days of wearing your braces, and for a day or two following each adjustment. In most cases, however, this pain is minor and disappears quickly. Taking an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen can help to ease this discomfort. Because retainers are worn after your teeth have shifted into their new positions, they are generally not painful.
What are the costs associated with orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment costs will vary depending on the type of treatment you choose, as well as the severity of your bite issues. In most cases, these costs will be covered under your dental plan, making treatment as affordable as any other necessary medical procedure. At Affordable Dentistry & Orthodontics, we are committed to ensuring that you can receive the dental treatment you desire at a cost that is completely and affordable, and we will help you in working with your dental insurance provider to get your orthodontic treatments covered.