What is orthodontic treatment?
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 the teeth, gums and jaw joints, by spreading the biting pressure over all the teeth.
Why should I have orthodontic treatment?
Many people have crowded or crooked teeth. Orthodontic treatment will straighten the teeth or move them into a better position. This can not only improve their appearance but also the way the teeth bite together, while also making them easier to clean.
In some patients the upper front teeth can stick out and look unsightly. These ‘prominent’ teeth are more likely to be damaged, but orthodontic treatment can move them back into line. In others, 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.
When the teeth don’t meet correctly, this can put strain on the muscles of the jaw, causing jaw and joint problems and in some cases headaches. Orthodontic treatment can help you to bite more evenly and reduce the strain.
At what age should I have orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment is generally best carried out in children, but adults can have orthodontic treatment – and more and more are doing. Age is less important than having the proper number of teeth. In children it may be necessary to wait for enough teeth to come through before starting treatment
What does it involve?
The most important thing is to have a full examination. This will usually involve looking at your teeth, taking x-rays and making plaster models of your teeth.
Your dentist or orthodontist will then discuss what treatment is possible. Once you are sure you want to go ahead, the treatment can begin as soon as you have enough permanent teeth.
Will I need to have teeth taken out to make room?
You may not have enough room for all your permanent teeth and so it may be necessary to take out some permanent teeth to make space. Your dentist will tell you whether this is the case. Sometimes space can be created using other forms of treatment.
How is treatment carried out?
Orthodontic treatment can be done by many sorts of appliances, which most people know as ‘braces’.
What is a removable appliance?
Simple treatment may be carried out with a removable appliance (a plate that can be taken out to be cleaned). It has delicate wires and springs attached, which move the teeth using gentle pressure.
What is a functional appliance?
It is sometimes possible to change the way the jaws grow, using orthodontic appliances. These functional appliances use the power of your jaw muscles and can help with certain types of problem.
What is a fixed appliance?
Often, teeth need to be guided more accurately than they can be using a removable plate. So fixed appliances are used. These have brackets and bands temporarily stuck to the teeth. A flexible wire joins all the brackets and allows the teeth to be moved. It is not possible for the patient to take the appliance out and so it is called a fixed appliance.
What are the brackets made of?
Fixed braces are not always made of metal. Plastic and ceramic can be used, especially for adults
How long will it take?
The length of treatment depends on how severe the problem is, and may take anything from a few months to two-and-a-half years. Most people can be treated in one to two years.
What happens when the teeth are in the right position?
When treatment is finished the teeth need to be held in position for a time. This period is called retention, and the appliances that hold the teeth in place are called retainers.
The retainers hold newly straightened teeth in position while the surrounding gum and bone settles. The retainers can be removable or fixed depending on the original problem.
How many visits will it take?
Orthodontic appliances usually need adjusting every 4 to 6 weeks. Your orthodontist will tell you how often your appliance will need adjusting.
Will it hurt?
All appliances may feel strange to begin with and can cause discomfort. If the problem doesn’t go away the orthodontist may be able to carry out adjustments to help. Teeth are usually uncomfortable immediately after adjustment but this will settle.
How successful will it be?
Success depends on a partnership between the skills of the dentist, and the enthusiasm and help of patient and parents. It is important to attend regularly and carry out any instructions given by the dentist.
The success of the treatment also depends on the commitment of the patient. For children’s orthodontic treatment it is very important that the patient is as keen as the parent.
Can orthodontics damage my teeth?
Your teeth can be damaged if they are not properly looked after during treatment. Appliances will not in themselves cause damage, but poor cleaning and too many sugary food and drinks can cause permanent damage. Brackets, wires and braces can trap food and cause more plaque than usual to build up. So the teeth and appliance need to be cleaned very thoroughly.
Is orthodontic work permanent?
Even after retention, it is normal for minor tooth movements to happen throughout life, so no permanent guarantee can be given. However, it is unusual for teeth to alter enough to need further treatment.
How do I care for my brace and teeth?
It is important to continue to have your teeth checked by your dentist while having orthodontic treatment. You also need to take extra care of your teeth and mouth:
- Clean your teeth carefully every day, including between your teeth where you can. Appliances are delicate and you need to make sure you clean them carefully so that they do not break. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to show you the special techniques to use depending on the appliance you are wearing.
- Cut down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks. Avoid ‘snacking’ on foods or drinks containing sugars, and on fizzy drinks. Also, sticky and hard foods may damage the delicate orthodontic appliances.
- Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and, if necessary, use a mouthwash. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride toothpaste or application for you to use.
From start to finish
After the initial examdination, we will get more information on your facial features, the size of your jaws and the position of your teeth, so we can plan your orthodontic treatment. We do this by taking diagnostic records, which consist of digital photographs, X-rays and impressions of your teeth.
The results from your diagnostic records will be presented to you at a consultation appointment. Using your diagnostic records we will finalize a treatment plan. Depending on the complexity of your orthodontic treatment, this consultation can take place in the office or over the phone.
The First Day in Braces
When we place your braces, there will be no discomfort. We don’t use needles or drills; we simply glue the braces to your teeth.
We take the time to demonstrate your personal oral health routine and walk you through our patient care package so that when you leave you feel confident taking care of your new smile and have an excellent resource guide when questions arise.
At first your braces will feel like they “stick out.” This is normal. You may find it helpful to apply a small piece of wax on any areas of irritation. You will probably notice some minor discomfort a few hours after the braces have been placed, as the teeth begin to move. Some teeth may be tender and sensitive to pressure. This discomfort usually lasts only a couple of days. You may take non-prescription pain remedies that you would normally take for a headache to relieve the pain. A softer diet is recommended for the first few days until you get used to your braces.
Once the braces are on, we will see you regularly for orthodontic adjustments. These appointments are usually at intervals of 6-10 weeks at the beginning of treatment and closer together towards the end.
The Big Day!
When your braces are removed, we will place retainers to help hold your teeth in their new position. Retainers are small wires attached to the inside of your top and bottom front teeth. Congratulations on a job well done! However, you’re not finished yet. We will continue to monitor you for an additional two years to ensure your great new smile is stable.