Orthodontics is a specialty field of dentistry that deals primarily with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws. It is difficult to clean crooked teeth and teeth that do not fit together, making them at risk for tooth decay and gum diseases. Crooked teeth also cause distraction on someone’s appearance. The dentist who specializes in this field is called an orthodontist.
The benefits of orthodontic treatment include a healthier mouth and better and more pleasing appearance. This can also help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.
To determine whether you need orthodontic, you need to have yourself checked by your dentist so that he can do a full medical and dental health history, a clinical exam, special X-rays and photographs. Your orthodontist will determine if you qualify an orthodontic treatment for you and he will develop a treatment plan for you.
You may be a candidate for an orthodontic treatment if you have the following:
- Overbite – this is also known as buck teeth, this is when the upper teeth lie too far forward over the lower teeth.
- Underbite – this is when the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth too far back, this is also known at bulldog appearance.
- Crossbite – this is when the upper teeth do not come down slightly in front of the lower teeth when biting together normally
- Open bite – the space between the biting surfaces of the front and/or side teeth when the back teeth bite together
- Misplaced midline – when the center of your upper teeth does not line up with the center of your lower front teeth
- Spacing – if there are gaps or spaces between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that do not fill up the mouth
- Crowding – this is when there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate
Many types of appliance are available to help move teeth, retain muscles and affect the growth of the jaws. They can be fixed or removable. These appliances work by applying gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws.
The following are the examples of fixed appliances:
- Braces – braces consist of bands, wires and brackets, and are the most common fixed appliance. Bands are fixed around the tooth and are used as an anchor for the appliance, while brackets are bonded to the tooth. Arch wires are passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. Tightening the arch wire puts tension on the teeth, while gradually moving them to their proper position. Braces are adjusted monthly to bring desired results which may be achieved after a few months to a few years.
- Special fixed appliance – these appliances are attached to the teeth by hand and these are used to control thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.
- Fixed space maintainers – space maintainer is used if a baby tooth is lost in order to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts.
Below are the examples of removable appliance:
- Aligners – aligners are used as alternative to traditional braces for adults , this is used to move teeth in the way that fixed appliances work, only without metal wires and brackets. Aligners are virtually invisible and are removed for eating, brushing and flossing
- Removable space maintainers – They function the same as fixed space maintainers and are made of acrylic base that fits over the jaw and have plastic or wire branches between specific teeth to keep the space between them open
- Jaw repositioning appliances – are also called splints, these are worn either at the top or lower jaw and these help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position. They may also be used for TMJ.
- Lip and cheek bummers – these are designed to keep the cheeks and lips away from the teeth. These bummers help relieve the pressure that lip and cheek muscles exert on the teeth.
- Palatal expander – is a device used to widen the arch of the upper jaw
- Removable retainers – are worn to prevent shifting of the teeth to their previous position. These can also be modified and be used to prevent thumb sucking
- Headgear – headgear slows the growth of the upper jaw and holds back the teeth where they are, while the front teeth are pulled back. The device has a strap placed around the back of the head and attached to a metal wire in front or face bow.