Most problems involving the alignment of your child’s teeth and the growth of their jaws can be identified by the time they are in the first or second grade. That is why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have a check up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. At this visit the orthodontist will carefully examine your child’s bite and assess the alignment and development of the teeth. The orthodontist will also look at the growth and relationships of the jaws, and in particular check for any shifts or dysfunction. It will also be determined if any premature tooth loss, habits, swallowing or breathing patterns are having an effect on your child’s occlusion.
Following this visit the orthodontist will indicate if any immediate preventative or interceptive orthodontic care is needed. In many circumstances no treatment is required right away and the child can be observed until it is the appropriate time for care. Your child’s dental development as well as their prospective facial growth will be carefully considered in outlining the best timetable for care.
Orthodontic treatment for children typically begins between the ages of 9 and 14. At this time they are generally in the mid to late mixed dentition stage. This means they have a mix of permanent front teeth, permanent molars, and some baby teeth. The benefit of placing braces at this stage is that the orthodontist can improve the alignment of permanent front teeth, guide the incoming new adult teeth into position, and utilize the child’s growth and development to best advantage.
Often habits such as prolonged thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and certain swallowing or breathing patterns that can open or distort the bite are better dealt with when care is initiated at a younger age. Interceptive treatment is also helpful when the top jaw is too narrow, not developing in harmony with the lower jaw, or permanent top teeth are behind the lower ones when closing the jaws. Likewise, if a young child’s front teeth protrude excessively or very severe crowding is present a first phase of orthodontic care can be beneficial.
The objectives of interceptive treatment and a first phase of orthodontic care are to influence jaw growth, create more space for crowded teeth, help to correct harmful habits, and improve facial aesthetics. With interceptive treatment the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth as well as the need for extractions of permanent teeth can be lessened. Interceptive treatment can also simplify the next phase of orthodontic care.
A healthy, functional and attractive smile requires teeth that are straight and jaws that are well aligned. A good bite with teeth that are straight not only looks good, it contributes to overall oral health and well being.
Braces are orthodontic devices that are used to address problems such as crooked, gapped or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites and improper jaw relationships. With advances in orthodontic technology and systems of care, a wide selection of braces is available today. Providing effective and efficient care, these choices are far less bulky, much less noticeable, and more comfortable than previous generations of braces.
The type of braces the dentist recommends for a patient’s case depends on several factors including:
- The severity of the bite problems
- The degree of crowding or spacing of the teeth
- If there is a need for extractions
- The relationship of the upper and lower jaws and if a surgical correction is also required
- How long the braces need to be worn to achieve the best outcome of care
- If any supplementary appliances are needed to support orthodontic correction
- A patient’s cosmetic concerns
The most common type of braces worn today, remain “metal braces”. Made of high-grade stainless steel these braces are significantly smaller and have a lower profile than their predecessors from years ago. Each brace, which is known as an orthodontic bracket, is individually bonded to the front of each tooth. Metal braces allow for efficient and highly controllable tooth movement.
In case where a set of conventional braces is the best approach, but a more cosmetic appearance is desired, ceramic braces are an excellent alternative to traditional metal braces. Ceramic braces or clear braces blend in with natural color of your teeth. While being far less visible, they still function in very much the same way as metal braces.
Today, there are even metal braces that can be placed on the “tongue side” or lingual of every tooth, so that they are in effect completely hidden from the outside world. These braces work in the same way as the metal or ceramic braces affixed to the front of the teeth, but can be more uncomfortable and more difficult to keep clean due to where they are located.
The most recent option in orthodontic treatment is removable clear aligners that are worn in a prescribed sequence to gradually move the teeth into position. While Invisalign developed the original technology for orthodontic treatment with a series of aligners and remains the most recognize named for this method of care, other companies such as ClearCorrect have followed to produce comparable, effective systems.
Invisalign®* is a form of orthodontic treatment that works to correct many different types of malocclusions through the use of a series of clear plastic trays called aligners. In many cases it provides an excellent treatment alternative to traditional orthodontic braces and metal wires.
Invisalign utilizes 3-D computer imaging technology to correct problematic bites or malocclusions by planning a complete sequence of custom-made clear aligners. This series of clear aligners, each of which is worn for a couple of weeks, incrementally move the teeth into place until the final desired corrections are reached.
The advantage and appeal of Invisalign appliances is that they are more cosmetic and more comfortable than most other orthodontic appliances With Invisalign appliances orthodontic treatment is practically “invisible.”
*Invisalign is a registered trademark of Align Technology, Inc.
A generation ago it was extremely unusual to see an adult with braces on their teeth. Today that is no longer the case. Thanks to advances in dental technology, greater access to care, and an increased awareness of the benefits of a beautiful and healthy smile; now over twenty percent of people wearing orthodontic appliances are adults.
With the wide variety of orthodontic treatment options available to adults, the process of wearing braces is more convenient, more comfortable, more efficient and much less conspicuous than ever before. Bulky metal braces are truly a thing of the past. The latest generations of metal appliances are substantially smaller and less unsightly than any of their predecessors. Moreover, an adult interested in orthodontic care can select braces that are hardly visible at all. Today’s tooth -colored ceramic braces, lingual braces or removable clear aligners can all effectively deliver treatment to achieve successful and pleasing outcomes of care.
Although, adult orthodontics requires an investment of time and resources the payoff is well worth it. The value of a healthy and attractive smile is priceless. Thanks to modern orthodontics, having teeth that look good and function well is something that can be enjoyed at any age.
Other types of orthodontic appliances may also be used during the course of treatment. Some of these appliances are removable and can be taken in and out of the mouth, while others will be attached to the teeth until they are no longer needed.
Depending upon the specific needs of the case, these appliances may be used to accomplish a number of things including:
- Widening the jaws in order to make sufficient space for the permanent teeth
- Influencing jaw growth
- The reduction of deep overbites
- Allowing for the correction of teeth in crossbite
- Maintaining the space for a permanent tooth when a baby tooth has been prematurely lost
- Minor tooth movement
- Helping to control harmful oral habits
Keeping Your Smile Clean and Healthy
Keeping your teeth, gums, and orthodontic appliances clean over the course of care is of the utmost importance. Food and plaque are easily trapped in the tiny spaces between your braces as well as underneath your removable appliances or aligners. In the absence of good oral hygiene you are at an increased risk of developing dental decay, areas of decalcification or stains on your teeth. Furthermore, your gums can become irritated and inflamed and you may even develop a dental infection.
Brushing after every meal, and flossing at least once a day, is the best way to insure that your teeth and gums remain healthy throughout your orthodontic treatment. It is also recommended that you brush your teeth after eating snacks. However, if you don’t have a toothbrush on hand at this time, you can occasionally clean your mouth by rinsing vigorously with water. You may also consider adding other useful items like a floss threader, a small interdental toothbrush (proxabrush), or an oral irrigator (water pick) to your dental care toolkit to assist you in keeping your appliances, as well as all of the small spaces around your braces, clean.
Make sure to see your general dentist regularly for routine care and to have a thorough dental cleaning.
At the start of your orthodontic care, our office will review with you how to handle most cases of broken or loose braces, as well as irritations due to your appliances. While some situations can be adequately managed until your next scheduled visit, others will require immediate professional attention. Keep in mind that loose and damaged orthodontic appliances are often the result of eating the wrong foods or harmful oral habits such as biting your nails or chewing on ice, pencils, and pens. However, there are occasions when even with normal usage and good care a brace will break, a protruding wire can become irritating, or elastic accessories will dislodge.
Common orthodontic emergencies may include:
- Poking or protruding wires
- A loose molar band
- A loose or broken orthodontic bracket
- Dislodged elastic ligature band
- Broken or bent removable appliances
Although all of the above situations can be uncomfortable and upsetting, other problems can develop that fall into the category of serious health emergencies. If you start to experience severe pain, develop significant swelling, or have sustained an injury to the teeth, the mouth, or jaws, it is essential to get prompt medical and dental attention. Once the extent of your injury or infection has been determined, it can be treated accordingly. As your orthodontist, we will work with your medical and dental team to adjust, remove, or replace your appliances as needed.