Orthodontics is one of the 9 recognized dental specialties in the US, apart from general dentistry. It requires an advanced training programme and certification. It deals with straightening of irregular teeth and modifications of irregular growth.
This involves using appliances on teeth. Braces are attached to the teeth. The purpose of these is to straighten teeth, properly aligning teeth and lips, closing gaps between the teeth and correcting malocclusion (Misalignment of teeth). Malocclusion is misalignment of teeth- some may have spaces or overcrowded, technically it is called “irregular bite”.
To visit an orthodontic specialist is your own decision. Some people may lose self-confidence; feel low-esteemed with these problems. However, it is not only cosmetic in nature, scientifically it can help you chew better and speak clearly (with upper and front lower teeth aligned properly).
Considering dental health, straight and aligned teeth are easy to clean with brush and floss. There is a less chance of tooth decay. Gingivitis which is an inflammatory infection which damages gums can be prevented. If not treated, it may lead to an infection that destroys tissues and bones. Bad bites can cause inefficient chewing of food leading to lack of nutrition, especially when jaws are un-aligned.
Starting early with diagnosis is always better. As per recommendation of American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic screening should be done by 7 years of age.
The treatment varies from person to person, the most common being braces. Braces help teeth movement slowly as they apply pressure precisely over a long time period. The treatment is done in two phases.
Appliances like braces or others are used to align teeth and correct misalignment. Sometimes functional appliances are used to direct growth and jaws in children. This is not as effective in adults.
A removable appliance worn to maintain tooth positions after treatment is completed and braces are removed.
Types of Braces
Braces can be made of metal, Ceramic or plastic. Your dentist can discuss the options good for you. Plastic or ceramic braces may discolor at the end of treatment, causing more friction between brackets and wires, which in turn increases time taken to treat. The most common is using stainless steel ones. Braces are to be used between 1-3 years depending on the problem. The orthodontist adjusts it from time to time.
One of the most popular options now is clear braces called Invisalign.
Small brackets are attached to your teeth with special tooth-colored composite resin applied to the teeth known as bonding agent. Arcs made of metal alloys are placed through the brackets. Now-a-days tooth colored material wires are available which are less visible than stainless-steel ones.
Braces may cause discomfort for a few days- irritation in tongue, cheeks or lips- most of which disappears in a week or two. Discomfort may be there when adjusting braces. Dentists suggest taking pain-killers to avoid pains/discomforts.
Once irregularities are corrected, braces are removed and dentist puts on a retainer. It maintains tooth position and stabilizes bones and gums. Time taken to wear these varies as per specialist’s suggestion.