Orthodontic treatment is a way of straightening or moving teeth, to improve the appearance of the teeth and how they work. It can also help to look after the long-term health of your teeth, gums, and jaw joints, by spreading the biting pressure over all your teeth.
The benefits of orthodontics can include:
Many people have crowded or crooked teeth or their teeth do not meet correctly when they bite. These problems can mean it’s harder to keep your teeth and gums clean and your teeth are more likely to become damaged.
In some cases, abnormal positioning of your teeth and jaw can affect the shape of your face.
Orthodontics can also help in the treatment of other health problems, such as a cleft lip and palate.
Many people have crowded or crooked teeth. Orthodontic treatment at Signature Smile in River Oaks and Royse City, Texas will straighten the teeth or move them into a better position. This can improve their appearance and the way the teeth bite together, while also making them easier to clean.
Some people have upper front teeth that stick out and look unsightly. These ‘prominent’ teeth are more likely to be damaged, but orthodontic treatment can move them back into line. Or the way the upper and lower jaws meet can cause teeth to look unsightly and lead to an incorrect bite. Orthodontic treatment may be able to correct both of these problems.
When the teeth don’t meet correctly, this can put a strain on the muscles of the jaw, causing jaw and joint problems and sometimes headaches. Orthodontic treatment can help you to bite more evenly and reduce the strain.
Orthodontic treatment is usually only started after most of a child’s adult teeth have started to come through.
This is usually when they’re about 12 years old but it depends on how many of their adult teeth have come through and the growth of their face and jaws.
Orthodontic treatment for adults can begin at any age, but the treatment options are more limited.
Treatment will not begin unless you have a good standard of oral hygiene, as orthodontic treatment can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum problems.
The best time is generally during childhood, but adults can have orthodontic treatment too – and more and more are doing so. Age is less important than having the right number of teeth. In children, it may be necessary to wait for enough teeth to come through before starting treatment.
Your dentist may carry out orthodontic treatment. Or they may send you to a specialist who has extra qualifications. The specialist may be in a practice or a hospital department and is called an orthodontist.
The most important thing is to have a full examination. This will usually involve looking at your teeth, taking dental x-rays, and making plaster models of your teeth.
Your dental team or orthodontist will then discuss what treatment is possible. Once you are sure you want to go ahead, the treatment can start as soon as you have enough permanent teeth.
You may not have enough room for all your permanent teeth. If so, you may need to have some permanent teeth taken out to make space. Your dental team will tell you whether this is the case. Sometimes space can be made using other forms of treatment.
Orthodontic treatment can be done by many sorts of appliances, which most people call a ‘brace’.
Simple treatment may be carried out with a removable brace (a plate that can be taken out to be cleaned). It has delicate wires and springs attached, which move the teeth using gentle pressure.
Orthodontics involves the use of braces to correct the position of the teeth. Your exact treatment will depend on the problem with your teeth.
In a small number of cases, you may have to wear headgear, or have small pins placed temporarily in your jaw as well as wearing a brace. If your teeth are very close together, causing them to twist or overlap, you may also need to have some teeth removed as part of your treatment.
The length of treatment will depend on how complicated the problem is, but it’s usually between 18 and 24 months.
When treatment finishes, you will need to wear a retaining brace. This is usually removable and needs to be worn every night to keep your teeth in their new position. They’re usually used for at least 12 months, but your orthodontist will advise you. Sometimes a thin wire may be permanently fixed behind your teeth to keep them in place.
Read more about the types of orthodontic treatment.
In most cases, your dentist will refer you to an orthodontist, although you may sometimes be able to get treatment directly from your dentist.
If orthodontic treatment is recommended, you may have to decide whether to have treatment privately or on the NHS.
You can find a list of all specialist orthodontists registered in the UK on the General Dental Council (GDC) website.
Often, teeth need to be guided more accurately than they can be using a removable brace. So a fixed brace is used. This has brackets and bands which are temporarily stuck to the teeth. A flexible wire joins all the brackets and allows the teeth to be moved. You can’t take the appliance out yourself, so it is called a fixed appliance.
It is sometimes possible to change the way the jaws grow, using a functional brace. This works by using the power of your jaw muscles and can help with certain types of problems.
Fixed braces are not always made of metal. Plastic and ceramic can be used, especially for adults.
As well as a brace some people need to wear headgear. You usually only need to wear them in the evening or at night. If you do not wear it in the way you have been told, your front teeth may stick out at the end of treatment.
They are tough, clear plastic ‘aligners’ (molds) that are used to straighten teeth. Several sets of specially molded, slightly different aligners are made for each patient. Each set is worn for two weeks before being replaced with the next one. They are made from clear plastic, so they are nearly invisible. This means that no one need know you are straightening your teeth.
The aligners should be worn for 22 to 23 hours a day for the best results. They can be easily removed for eating, drinking, brushing, and cleaning in between your teeth. You need to have all your adult teeth before you can have this treatment.
Sometimes delicate elastic bands are attached to a fixed brace to help move the teeth. Your orthodontist will tell you if you need elastics.
The length of treatment depends on how severe the problem is, and it may take anything from a few months to two-and-a-half years. Most people can be treated in one to two years.
A common complication of orthodontics is white spots on the teeth, which are an early sign of tooth decay. This can happen when acid is produced from plaque, which builds up on your teeth and around your brace.
Cleaning your teeth and brace can be time-consuming, but it’s needed to avoid permanent marks on your teeth when the brace is removed.
Many people with appliances find it difficult to keep their teeth and gums clean, so extra brushing is needed during treatment.
Your orthodontist may recommend using toothpaste with a high level of fluoride, or a mouthwash that contains fluoride, to reduce your risk of tooth decay. You should also try to avoid sugary foods and fizzy drinks.
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