Improve oral health and confidence with effective orthodontic treatment

A perfect bright smile is often associated with good health. Also, a pleasant smile helps boost self-confidence as well.  Some are lucky to have straight teeth which are perfectly aligned with the teeth of the opposite jaw. With such well-aligned teeth, not only he or she has a perfect smile, it helps to bite and chew food properly and speak without any difficulty. But it’s very rarely you find people with straight teeth with perfectly aligned jaws. Misaligned teeth are pretty common among people. If the misalignment is severe, it could result in difficulty to bite, chew food or speak clearly, among many more difficulties. In dentistry, this condition is called as malocclusion. And the practice of straightening the misaligned teeth and jawbones is called orthodontics. It focuses on correcting and prevention misaligned teeth. The word ‘orthodontics’ derives from the two Greek words ‘orthos’, which means straight or correct and ‘dontics’ which means teeth.

Misaligned teeth had been a concern as far back as Ancient Egypt. It was believed that the first braces were made of cord from animal skin. They were attached to the teeth the same way a current orthodontist would place a steel brace. And, archaeologists found dental devices in a Roman tomb with bodies with braces along with user guides. They were somewhat similar to the contemporary braces.  And they made of gold wire and fitted along the teeth.

The beginning of contemporary orthodontics started in 1901 when Dr. Edward Angle founded the American Society of Orthodontia. It was later renamed the American Associate of Orthodontists in the 1930s. Dr. Angle was also called the ‘father of American orthodontics’. He coined the term ‘malocclusion’ to refer to the misaligned teeth and abnormalities of teeth and jaws. Also, he devised the classification system for malocclusion. He divided malocclusion into three main classes with subsequent classes. Each class described the severity of misalignment of the teeth and how the teeth fit together. This classification system is still in use to this day.

Subsequently, he invented several dental appliances to fix malocclusion. Since then, the development of orthodontics was moving ahead at a slow pace and wasn’t very popular. It was after the 1970s, orthodontics picked up and dramatically advanced.  Before the 70s, braces were quite different from the current braces. They were wrapped around the teeth, and the most popular choice of material for braces was gold. It was only after the mid-70s, orthodontists started to attach brackets to the teeth. The gold wire was replaced by stainless steel wire. And in some cases, a combination of stainless steel and titanium wire were used.

There’s common confusion about dentists and orthodontists. It’s most probably because there are dentists who place braces on their patients too. Dentists and orthodontists are both doctors who specialize in oral care. But what they do is quite unique. Dentists are specialized in helping people with their oral health. They fill cavities, extract teeth, treat gum diseases, install crowns, and perform surgeries. Helping the patients to prevent dental diseases is another vital task of them. Orthodontists also are initially trained to be dentists. But they had taken extra training on Orthodontics, a specialty branch of dentistry.

Identifying the irregularities of the teeth at an early age is crucial for orthodontic treatment. Both dentists and parents play a vital role in realizing the dental defects of the kids. In most cases, it’s parents who realize irregularities of the teeth or the bite of their kids at an early stage. In other cases, it’s the dentists who notice the misaligned teeth and jawbones of their pediatric patients and suggest their parents consult an orthodontist. Some orthodontic deformities are inherited while some are caused by bad habits. If one of the parents has malocclusion, there’s a high chance the condition will be passed down to the children. Another common cause of malocclusion among kids is excessive bottle feeding and thumb sucking.

Whether your child has misaligned teeth or not, it’s recommended to consult an orthodontist before the child turns seven. While the age of seven is too young for orthodontic treatment, it’s not too young for an orthodontic checkup. When a child reaches seven, they have a mix of baby teeth (primary teeth) and permanent teeth. During this period, facial bones and jaws are still developing and provides a wealth of information for orthodontists. That way, they can plan the treatment ahead of time and wait till the appropriate age to start the treatments. Since their jawbones are still growing, it’s easier to fix their teeth and jaws when they are still young.

After an orthodontist corrects your child’s teeth, he/she will be able to bite and chew foods properly. Also, it will contribute to clear speech. Properly aligned teeth greatly help overall oral health as well. Straight teeth are less vulnerable to tooth decay and gum diseases. By any means, this doesn’t mean a child older than seven is too old to receive dental treatment. It’s pretty normal for children from 9 to 16 to start their orthodontic treatment. Having an attractive smile is an added benefit of correcting the misaligned teeth of children. An additional benefit will be the boost of self-confidence from an early age.

Even though children and teenagers are often associate orthodontics, the treatments are not only for children anymore.  For the most part, it’s children and teenagers who receive treatment from orthodontists. But if you are an adult and find it difficult to chew food, unable to close your lips comfortably, have speech difficulty, crowded teeth, or protruding teeth, you can directly consult an orthodontist. According to a recent study, it was revealed that adults are seeking orthodontic treatments in record numbers. One reason for this trend is the innovative technology and the array of treatment options that are available now. Some of the latest treatments are very new, and some treatments were not available for them when they were children. And, another reason is that such complex dental treatments are affordable to adults. The dual benefit of improvement of dental health and smile have proven to increase their confidence. And sometimes the improvement of personal and professional lives. While they enjoy the multiple benefits of improving smile and dental health, some even regret not getting orthodontic treatment sooner.

Orthodontic treatments involve lots of planning, effort and time. They are complex biological processes that have no quick or easy fixes. During your initial consultation, it’s crucial you openly communicate with your orthodontist. When it comes to pediatric patients, parents and the patients must share all the difficulties and symptoms to help the orthodontist decide well informed treatment options.

Most of these processes involve teeth moving into new positions and changes to jawbones. Since our teeth and positioning of the jawbones are pretty diverse, these treatments are well thought out custom treatment plans. The orthodontic treatment usually starts with a complete examination of the teeth and mouth. The doctor will require several x-rays of your teeth and jawline to have a clear idea about your teeth and the jawbones in some cases. If you have any past dental records, they will be thoroughly reviewed to get a clear idea about your teeth. In some cases, photos of your teeth also will be taken. Also, the practitioner will measure how wide the patient can open his/her mouth and if there is a clicking sound when the mouth is opened. Such jaw clicking is usually a sign of teeth grinding. If the patient’s teeth are sticking out, protrusion also will be measured. Basically, treatment will be easier and more successful if the orthodontist have a clear idea about your teeth and jawbones.

When the orthodontist decides the suitable dental treatment for your unique situation, you have to coordinate your regular dental appointments with your orthodontic treatments. You would be making several visits to your family dentist for cleaning and regular checkups. Your orthodontist will suggest you visit your family dentist for dental cleaning before placing the braces. Also, the doctor will instruct how far ahead you should do the cleaning and prepare for your new braces. The standard practice is to visit the family dentist every six months during orthodontic treatment.

When you talk about dental appliances, it is braces that come to the mind of people. They are the oldest and most commonly used orthodontic appliance. Also, it is the most tested and most effective dental treatment for malocclusion. But there are many other dental appliances such as, clear aligners, retainers, space maintainers, ceramic braces, and headgear.

Most orthodontic patients are nervous before placing braces in fear of discomfort. But placing braces aren’t painful, and you don’t need any local anesthetics either. Generally, placing braces takes about 90 to 120 minutes which is heavily dependent on each patient. When you start wearing braces, there will be mild discomfort during the first few days. Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water is one common remedy to relieve the pain. Also, you can take over-the-counter mild pain killers too. Some find eating cold and soft foods such as ice cream and pudding also help relieve the pain. It is indeed an excellent pain-relieving option for children and teenagers after their first brace.

When you start wearing braces, you have to learn how to take care of your teeth and braces, which will be different from your usual dental hygiene practices. Your orthodontist or one of his assistants will brief you on what toothpaste to use, how to brush your teeth and floss while wearing braces. In some cases, they will recommend using certain hygiene tools to clean your teeth when wearing dental appliances.

With your new braces, you would have to make small changes to your foods and drinks habits. At first, chewing could be difficult with the new braces. That’s why doctors recommend the patients consider having foods that don’t need biting or chewing.  Soups, mash potatoes, soft fruits, scrambled eggs, cooked or soft vegetables and puddings are great options.  As you slowly get accustomed to your new braces, you will be able to speak and eat normally. After the first or second week, most patients find new braces quite comfortable. Most of them say they don’t even feel that it is there. But even then, you have to watch what you eat and drink while you wear the braces. Eating hard foods with braces on could break or damage the wires or brackets. Also, hard foods are difficult to remove from dental appliances. So, while you wear braces you be selective about the foods and snacks you have. When it comes to pediatric patients, parents should instruct them to avoid nail biting, chewing on pens, pencils, and other hard objects. If the braces become loose during the treatment, you have to consult your practitioner and reattach it. But if this happens regularly, it is a sign that you have to pay more attention to the foods you eat.

Post orthodontic care is a crucial element of orthodontics to enjoy maximum results of the treatment. When a patient successfully completes orthodontic treatment, orthodontists prescribe retainers. All the organs in your body change throughout your whole life. Jawbones are also live soft tissues that constantly change. After the teeth were moved to the new positions, the jawbone has to rebuild. While the bones rebuild, it’s crucial for the teeth to keep in place. That is why orthodontists stress that the key to maintaining the success of the orthodontic treatment is using retainers. Hence, the post care is solely is up to the patient.

There are two types of retainers. One type is removable retainers where the patient can remove and put back on. And the fixed retainers have to be placed and removed by an orthodontist. Your orthodontist will decide which type of retainers are most suitable for your treatment. Most removable retainers are made of wire and plastic-like material. The part covering the roof of the mouth is often pink to reflect the inside of the mouth. That way it will be more discreet.

You will be instructed how to place and remove the retainer and how to take care of it. Since you wear the retainer inside your mouth, it naturally accumulates bacteria, plaque and tartar. So, it’s crucial to clean it every day. When you clean them, you have to follow the instructions and clean with the instructed solution. Depending on the type of retainer, you can use dental cleaner solutions and, in some cases, mild soap also is another option. Some use a denture brush or a soft toothbrush to clean the debris on them. According to the orthodontists, your retainer must be kept only in one of two places. Either it has to be in your mouth, or inside the retainer case. Placing the retainer anywhere else would make the retainer unhygienic to wear.

Wearing the retainer during the night is enough to maintain the orthodontic treatment. After giving you the retainer, your orthodontist will schedule routine retainer checkups. And overtime, it will be replaced by a new one depending on your usage. A retainer will last for many years if you take proper care of it. Often, people make wearing a retainer a part of their regular oral hygiene routine. Most of them wear the retainer after brushing and flossing before going to bed.

Orthodontic surgery is another form of orthodontic treatment. But this is considered the last resort when any of the other treatments are not an option. When a patient has a severe underbite (where upper teeth are placed far back), or an overbite (where upper teeth come down too far over the lower teeth), the orthodontist will consider using wires, surgical screws, or plates to support the jawbone. First, the doctor will experiment with dental appliances and see how your teeth and jawbones react to the treatment. But in some cases, when the patient has a fully grown jaw, performing jaw surgery and shortening or lengthening the jaw is the only option. When surgery is the only option to correct a patient’s malocclusion, the doctor will provide a thorough demonstration. It is pretty easy with the technology available today. Thanks to the latest computerized imaging technology, orthodontists can demonstrate the overall functional benefits of the surgery. Using such digital imaging technology to plan the treatment minimize the treatment. And due to the efficacy of the treatment, recovery time also will be minimum. That way the patients could soon return to their day to day routine.

Orthodontic treatment is not only about aesthetics. No matter how old you are, you can improve your oral health with orthodontics. Its main purpose is to enable a patient to have correctly aligned teeth to chew and bite without any discomfort and speak clearly. The pleasant smile is only a bonus of orthodontic treatment. With successful orthodontic treatment, you will be able to maintain excellent oral health and prevent gum diseases. Also, it is a sign of good overall dental hygiene.