Orthodontics (literally meaning `straight'-Ortho, `tooth'-Odons) is a specialised branch of dentistry dealing with the correction of misaligned and malformed teeth. Orthodontics not only improves appearance, but it also improves function and stability; and can prevent further wear of maloccluded teeth.
AT WHAT AGE
can you have orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic problems are often apparent by the age of seven, when the first of the adult front teeth and molars have erupted. Early examination allows us to detect and evaluate problems and plan appropriate treatment.
The main benefits of early treatment are that it can help prevent more serious problems from developing and/or make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. In some cases we may be able to achieve results that are not possible once the face and jaws have stopped growing.
However, the basic principles involved in moving teeth can be applied at any age. So, although the treatment process may differ, orthodontic treatment is still very successful for adults as well as children.
WHY HAVE TREATMENT?
The benefits of orthodontic treatment
If you have noticed any of the problems in the following list, then you may benefit from orthodontic treatment. Parents, if you have noticed any of the following in your child then consider them warning signs that your child should have an orthodontic examination:
Crowding - this may present as crowded, misplaced or blocked out teeth. Conversely, some patients have significant gaps between their teeth.
Asymmetry - particularly when the centre lines of the upper and lower front teeth do not match, or where the centre lines of the teeth do not match the centre line of the face.
Biting the cheeks or roof of the mouth.
A deep bite - when your upper teeth cover the lower teeth too much.
A reverse bite - when your upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth.
An open bite - when your front teeth remain apart when your back teeth meet.
Impacted teeth - in some patients, secondary teeth come through in the wrong position or do not erupt at all.
A small or prominent chin.
Mouth breathing - either during the day and/or while asleep.
Finger or thumb sucking.
Grinding or clenching of teeth - maybe observed as excessive wear or chipping of the front teeth.
Early or late loss of baby teeth.
Protruding upper front teeth - one of the most common dental problems.
Jaw problems - lower jaws that move to one side upon opening or make clicking/grinding sounds.
Swallowing difficulties - exaggerated movement of the tongue and/or lips when swallowing.
A gummy smile - where you show a lot of the gum above your upper front teeth when you smile.
If you would like to know more about orthodontic problems and how they can be treated, please refer to our sections on Children's Orthodontics and Adult Orthodontics.
Orthodontic treatment can enhance a smile at any age
When is the best time to begin orthodontics in children?
With orthodontic treatment we can enhance a smile at any age, but there is an optimal time period to begin treatment. Beginning the treatment at this time can ensure the best overall results. We believe that the best time to screen for orthodontic problems is around the age of seven. At this early age, we are unlikely to recommend orthodontic treatment with braces. In fact for most parents the greatest benefit is the reassurance that everything is okay. However, where we do diagnose problems an early screen may lead to significant treatment benefits.
What are the benefits of early orthodontic evaluation?
Early evaluation provides timely detection of problems so we don't miss the opportunity for more effective treatment. Often there are problems in the back of the mouth that parents can't see that we can detect at this age. These include cross bite, missing teeth, deep bite, improper tongue position, improper swallowing, impacted teeth and midline discrepancies. Prudent intervention helps overcome these problems, which if left untreated can contribute to more serious problems developing later.
Why is age 7 considered the optimal time for screening?
By the age of 7, the first adult molars erupt, establishing the back bite. During this time we can evaluate front-to-back and side-to-side tooth and jaw relationships.
What are the advantages of early treatment?
Some of the most obvious results of early treatment are: creating room for crowded, erupting teeth; creating facial symmetry through influencing growth; reducing the risk of trauma to protruding front teeth; preserving space for uninterrupted teeth; reducing the need for tooth removal; and reducing treatment time with braces.
Early intervention also reduces the risk of relapse after orthodontic treatment is completed. Simply put, teeth that have been crooked for a long time have a 'memory' of being crooked. Leave treating them for too long, then the likelihood that they'll want to return to their original crooked position once orthodontic treatment is completed is much higher.
Also, if the first permanent teeth to come through between the ages of 6 to 8 erupt in less than ideal positions then correcting their position early will reduce the chance that the other permanent teeth come through in poor positions.
Is your child a candidate for orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontics is more than improving the aesthetics of the smile. Orthodontic treatment improves bad bites (malocclusions). Malocclusion occurs as a result of tooth or jaw misalignment. Malocclusion affects the way you smile, chew, clean your teeth or feel about your smile.
Why should malocclusions be treated?
Malocclusions can cause a variety of problems. Crowded teeth are more difficult to properly brush and floss, which may contribute to tooth decay and/or gum disease. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental chipping as well as the obvious self-esteem issues of having 'buck' teeth. Crossbites can result in unfavourable growth and uneven tooth wear as well as facial deviations which can become permanent if not detected and corrected early. Openbites are associated with tongue-thrusting habits and speech impediments, which can also result in uneven tooth wear and unsightly facial growth. Ultimately, orthodontics does more than make a pretty smile - it creates a healthier you.
Add youthfulness to your face
The boom in cosmetic dentistry is prompting more adults to consider orthodontic treatment to straighten their teeth, something once thought of as the preserve of children. So if you think you're too old for orthodontic treatment, think again. Some adults are even opting to have orthodontic treatment at the same time their children do! Many patients seeking orthodontic treatment in adulthood are people who were unable to have treatment when they were growing up, but the good news is you are never too old to start.
Orthodontic treatment at any age is one of the most fantastic cosmetic dental procedures available today. Although it takes a little longer to complete than many of the other cosmetic dental procedures it has some significant advantages in that once completed it requires little or no ongoing cost to maintain the result for the rest of your lifetime. Moving your teeth can also add youthfulness to your face by changing the shape of your jaw and face, and adding increased support for your lips reducing the need for other cosmetic procedures to the face.
We can also combine orthodontics and other cosmetic dental treatments like whitening, gum lifts, and other restorative procedures to achieve an even better result for you. This is an area we have a special interest in, so if you are unhappy with your smile, please call us to discuss how we can help you achieve the smile you have always wanted. Another benefit we offer through modern technology is computer modelling to show you the difference orthodontic treatment is likely to make to your facial profile. If you're unsure whether orthodontic treatment is right for you it's a useful aid to help you decide on what is best for you.
Orthodontics is also good for your health as crooked or crowded teeth can cause uneven wear of tooth surfaces or jaw problems that may lead to complications later in life. Crooked and crowded teeth can also be difficult to clean properly, which makes them more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.
TEETH STRAIGHTENING OPTIONS
Available for adults
Fixed braces - the traditional kind that attach to teeth - generally require 12 to 30 months to work, no matter what your age. After the braces are removed, both adults and young people will have to wear a retainer. Retainers are either a removable appliance like a mouth guard that keeps teeth from shifting into their previous positions or a fine wire that is permanently bonded to the back of teeth where it can't be seen.
While the stigma of wearing braces as an adult has all but disappeared, not everyone wants to show a mouth full of metal when they smile. Fortunately, cosmetic options such as ceramic or "tooth-coloured" braces; lingual braces that fit behind the teeth; and clear, removable "aligners" are available. The most widely available types of orthodontic treatments for adults are:
These are the braces that most people are familiar with. But, they have been around for decades, and are not perceived as being as trendy as some of the newer options. Despite that, the metal braces available today are highly sophisticated, and allow greater control of tooth movement than some of the newer technologies. Plus, they are usually the least expensive type of braces, and in most cases they are also the fastest acting. So, although not as aesthetically pleasing as the newer options, you are often out of your braces sooner when metal braces are used. For those who prefer the advantages of metal braces, but are not thrilled about the aesthetics they can be made funkier by the use of coloured elastics around the metal brackets.
Ceramic or "tooth-coloured" Braces
These are braces where the bracket (the part glued to the tooth) is made of a ceramic material or a plastic polymer. They are mainly used on the most visible teeth - the upper or upper front ones. Their main advantage over metal braces is that they blend into the tooth so are a lot less visible, while still allowing most of the range of tooth movements achievable with metal braces. When these types of braces were first released there were some problems with staining over time, but these problems have now largely disappeared. They are the preferred option for many adults, but do have a few drawbacks compared to metal braces. In general, they cost more to use partly because they cost more to buy, and partly because the treatment takes longer using these braces - up to six months longer in many cases. They also tend to break more, so you may have to make more visits during your treatment to have them replaced if this happens to you.
Sequential Plastic Aligners
A series of clear removable plastic aligners can be used to straighten your teeth without metal wires or brackets. As you replace each aligner with the next in the series, your teeth will move, little by little, week by week, until they have straightened to the desired position. Because the aligners are made of a clear material they can be worn, and often go unnoticed by people around you.
If patients choose to use these removable plastic aligners to correct crooked teeth, they must be disciplined about wearing each aligner in the series for the prescribed amount of time in order to get the best results. So, they don't have the fit and forget advantage of metal or ceramic braces. But, food can't get stuck between teeth with this form of orthodontics since no brackets or wires are used, and there isn't the problem of rubbing against the inside of the lips and cheeks that can sometimes occur with braces.
Another advantage this method of orthodontics has is that it usually involves fewer visits to the dentist during treatment, but it is normally a lot more expensive than metal or ceramic braces. Sequential plastic aligners can align teeth but, as yet, they cannot correct significant bite discrepancies. To put it another way, they can only be used to correct your orthodontic problems if they are relatively simple.
If you are interested in orthodontic treatment, but are put off by the thought of braces, contact us for a consultation to see if this approach is suitable for you. Sequential plastic aligners are available from different companies including ClearSmile, Invisalign and TruLine.
These are braces, usually metal, that sit behind the teeth, on the tongue side. These are the ultimate in invisible orthodontics while still allowing a relatively wide range of tooth movements to be achieved. For patients with more complex problems who really don't want to be seen wearing braces, these maybe their best option. However, this is a very specialised branch of orthodontics offered by few practitioners, and one that we currently do not offer. But, we are happy to refer you to someone who does if it was felt this was the best option for you. Other than limited availability, the other significant drawback of lingual braces is the expense. They are currently the most expensive way to straighten teeth, with the cost of treatment extending into the five figure range.