You've probably heard the term 'orthodontics,' but what exactly does it mean and how can an orthodontist assist you? Today, our orthodontists in British Columbia and Alberta discuss the fundamentals of this dental specialty.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on treating irregularities in the teeth and jaws (particularly irregularities involving improper positioning, occlusion, and alignment).
Oral health problems such as crowded or crooked teeth, jaw misalignments, overbites or underbites can wreak havoc on speech, eating, and quality of life.
In these cases, orthodontists will recommend orthodontic treatment to gradually realign the teeth, resulting in a more symmetrical smile.
Whether orthodontic issues arise as a result of genetic or hereditary factors, or as a result of poor habits or injuries, it is critical to treat them promptly. Resolving issues with a "bad bite," gaps between teeth, or a misaligned jaw can help patients reduce their oral health risks, improve the function and appearance of their teeth, and improve their overall quality of life.
What are some common orthodontic treatments?
Depending on your orthodontic issue, your dentist or orthodontist may recommend one (or a combination) of these orthodontic treatments to help correct it:
- Orthodontic braces
- Clear aligners
- Removable appliances
- Oral surgery
Each of these will require a collaborative effort from the orthodontist, the dentist, and the patient to achieve optimal 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 if you have crowded, crooked, protruding, or missing teeth, you may experience difficulty eating, chewing, or speaking. Patients may also experience pain or muscle tension, as well as painful symptoms in their jaw if the issue is caused by TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder.
Additionally, during a routine oral examination, your dentist may review your dental history or mention concerns about your bite or jaw and refer you to an orthodontist who can meet your needs by developing a customized 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 problem, your age, the treatment method used, and other factors can all affect the length of time required for treatment. Generally, you'll visit your dentist or orthodontist on a monthly or annual basis.
Adults are typically more difficult to treat than adolescents or children. The average person will wear orthodontic braces for about two years. Your orthodontist will provide specific instructions to assist you in achieving the desired results from your treatment.