Your dentist may have discussed with you the benefits of having healthy teeth and proper jaw alignment. Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This can result in tooth decay, worsened gum disease, and even lead to tooth loss. Other orthodontic problems can contribute to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, inefficient chewing function, excessive stress on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth, or misalignment of the jaw joints. In some cases, treatment by an orthodontist can be less costly than the additional care required to treat dental problems arising long-term as a result of orthodontic problems. For most people, a beautiful smile is the most obvious benefit of orthodontics and as a result self-esteem and confidence are enhanced.
Braces for All Ages
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful smile. One of every five patients in orthodontic treatment is over 21. Adults can enjoy the same benefits as children with orthodontic treatment, but because their jaws are not growing, treatment options may differ. Adults also may have experienced some breakdown or loss of their teeth and bone that supports the teeth. In some cases, periodontal (gum) treatment may be required before, during, and/or after orthodontic treatment. Bone loss around teeth can limit the amount and direction of tooth movement that is advisable.
It's best for the orthodontist to see children by age seven to screen for developing problems and advise if and when orthodontic treatment is required. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by this time and crossbites, crowding, and other problems can be evaluated. Some children can benefit from early treatment while others can be treated in the future once all their permanent teeth have erupted. When treatment is begun early, the orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaws and guide incoming permanent teeth. Early treatment can also regulate the width of the upper and lower dental arches, gain space for permanent teeth, help avoid the need for permanent tooth extractions, reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth, correct thumb-sucking, and eliminate abnormal swallowing or speech problems. In other words, there are several problems early treatment can resolve before they get worse. In many cases, early interceptive treatment simplifies future treatment and leads to a much more ideal overall orthodontic result later on.
How Orthodontic Treatment Works
Orthodontic appliances can be made of metal, ceramic or plastic. They may be removable or they may be brackets bonded to the teeth. By placing a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, braces slowly move teeth to a corrected position. This is a great time to wear braces! Gone are the days when a metal band with a bracket was placed around each tooth. You can choose brackets that are clear or metallic color. You can choose the color of the ties that hold the wire in brackets. Wires are also less noticeable than they used to be and the latest materials move teeth faster with less discomfort to patients. As an alternative to traditional braces, some patients may have the option of choosing “invisible orthodontics” where teeth are straightened with a series of removable clear aligners.
Duration of Treatment
Treatment times vary on a case-by-case basis, but the average time is from one to two years. Actual treatment time can be affected by rate of growth and severity of the correction necessary. Treatment length is also dependent upon patient compliance. The patient's diligent use of any prescribed rubber bands or headgear is an important factor in achieving the most efficient treatment. Also, taking care not to damage appliances, maintaining good oral hygiene, and keeping regular appointments are important in keeping treatment on schedule. Interceptive, or early treatment procedures, may take as few as nine months.
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