Indications for Early Orthodontic Treatment
Orthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, interception, and treatment of malocclusions of the teeth and surrounding structures. Misaligned teeth are unattractive and can contribute to serious problems such as tooth decay. Orthodontists straighten teeth by the use of bands, wires, braces, and other fixed or removable corrective appliances or retainers.
If you notice any of the following warning signs of malocclusion in your child, it may be time to see an orthodontist:
- Protruding teeth
- Teeth that do not meet or meet in an irregular way
- Crowding or misplaced teeth
- Difficulty biting or chewing
- Difficulties with speech
Overview of Orthodontics
Braces are a time-tested and effective means of aligning teeth. Brackets are attached, or "bonded," to the teeth and a wire is linked from bracket to bracket, applying gentle pressure. This pressure works to gradually shift the teeth into their proper position. Braces can be used to correct even the most severe cases of misaligned teeth.
Invisalign® or Invisible Braces
For those looking to avoid the appearance of traditional braces, Invisalign or invisible braces may be an option for you. A series of customized, virtually-invisible aligners-each of which is worn for a period of approximately two weeks-works to slowly shift your teeth into proper alignment. Many patients find Invisalign to be a more attractive and comfortable alternative to traditional braces.
Preventing and Correcting Disharmonies of Growth Between the Upper and Lower Jaw
Disharmonies of growth between the upper and lower jaw can occur as your child is growing. An inconsistency between the length or width of the jaw can result in an imbalance of the facial bones, muscles and teeth. An orthodontist can reposition the jaw so that as growth continues, the bones and teeth align correctly. If the disharmonies are not addressed during childhood, they can result in major jaw issues that require orthognathic surgery on the jaw.
Functional appliances may be used to correct these disharmonies by manipulating growth and development. Since they reposition the jaw, functional appliances are often an initial stage of treatment done before braces are applied to the teeth.
Guiding the Development and Positioning of the Teeth
Primary, or baby, teeth are responsible for guiding the permanent teeth into the correct position. Sometimes problems occur that result in a disruption of this process. Using early intervention techniques, an orthodontist can guide the development and positioning of the teeth for a beautiful, functional smile.
First visits to an orthodontist are recommended at 7 years old or younger if there is an obvious malocclusion. The orthodontist will examine the child's mouth and jaws, take a dental history, complete a series of X-rays and possibly create impressions of the jaw. This helps your orthodontist make a diagnosis and create a customized treatment plan that may include extractions, appliances, braces, and other orthodontic techniques for optimal alignment of the teeth.
Eliminating Impairment of Chewing Ability Caused by a Malocclusion
Malocclusion refers to any abnormal alignment of the teeth, including an overbite, underbite, crossbite or crooked teeth. These conditions involve problems with the fit of the upper and lower teeth. Misaligned teeth can lead to excessive stress that can gradually loosen or crack teeth.
For some patients, crooked teeth can cause difficulties with chewing and eating. Most cases of malocclusion can be corrected restoring full function to the teeth. Many cases can be treated by removing certain teeth making room for teeth still erupting, then attaching braces to the teeth to straighten the bite.
Reducing the Susceptibility to Dental Decay and Gum Disease Caused by the Crowding of Teeth
Overcrowding of the teeth does not allow for good oral hygiene because it is often difficult to thoroughly clean tight spaces. Crooked teeth are a risk factor for gum disease, which is a leading cause of tooth loss. Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that is brushed and flossed away with proper oral care. When left on the teeth, plaque produces toxins that attack below the gum line, causing the bond between teeth and gums to break down.
In the early stage of gum disease, gums may become red and swollen and bleed easily; in a more advanced stage, teeth can loosen and fall out. Good oral hygiene, regular dental examinations and addressing overcrowding issues are essential in the prevention of gum disease.
Eliminating Harmful Habits
Persistent harmful habits can affect the growth of the teeth and jaws and cause abnormalities. Thumb sucking is a very common self-soothing behavior in babies, and can be detrimental to the alignment of the teeth as children get older. Parents can help stop thumb sucking by comforting an anxious child and offering them praise for keeping the thumb out of the mouth. Your dentist can explain to your child how thumb sucking affects the mouth in order to discourage the behavior.
Tongue thrusting is when the tongue moves to a forward position in the mouth during swallowing. This habit can cause an open bite and other orthodontic issues. A night guard or another appliance can sometimes correct the problem. In other cases, oral therapy is necessary to train the patient to change the tongue's posture.
Improving Appearance of the Face and Mouth Area
Crooked, overlapping or misaligned teeth can be a cause of embarrassment when smiling. Orthodontic services are designed with the goal of achieving an attractive, healthy smile for every patient. Patients who undergo orthodontic treatment often enjoy greater self-confidence.
Correcting Temporomandibular Joint Abnormalities
A bad bite can be the cause of a disorder of the temporomandibular joint, also known as TMJ. The disorder is characterized by facial pain, headaches, earaches and clicking sounds in the jaw joint. The TMJ moves every time you talk, chew or swallow. It is one of the most frequently used joints in your body.
There are various treatments available for TMJ disorders, including wearing a mouth guard, therapeutic exercises and surgery. In some cases, orthodontic treatment can be beneficial in realigning the teeth to improve the patient's bite and help the jaw fit together properly.
Orthodontics and Orthognathic Surgery
Orthognathic surgery is needed when the jaw does not meet correctly or the teeth do not seem to "fit" with your jaw. In most cases, teeth are straightened with orthodontics after corrective jaw surgery. Orthognathic surgery allows for the repositioning of teeth and facial bones to create a more balanced appearance with a jaw that works and functions properly.
Difficulty in the following areas should be evaluated :
- Protruding jaw or chin
- Elongated chin
- Deficient chin
- "Gummy" smile
- Open bite
- Difficulty in chewing, biting, or swallowing
- Chronic TMJ pain
Implants and Orthodontics
In traditional orthodontics, teeth are used as anchors, applying force to surrounding teeth, moving them into a more desirable positions. Recent breakthroughs in dentistry has allowed for the use of dental implants as anchors. Dental implants can withstand a much greater force than a tooth, facilitating faster treatments and relying much less on patient compliance. Implants can be used in patients with missing teeth or all of their natural teeth. Implants have created orthodontic correction opportunities for patients, with dental issues, that would not have been treated using traditional techniques.