You've heard the word 'orthodontics' before. But what does it mean, and how can an orthodontist help you? Here, our orthodontists in Okotoks discusses the basics of this dental specialty.
What is Orthodontics?
Within the field of dentistry, there's a specialty called orthodontics. It focuses on treating irregularities in teeth (especially irregularities involving improper positioning, alignment and occlusion) and jaws.
Jaw misalignments, overcrowded or crooked teeth, underbites, overbites and other conditions can cause oral health problems and lead to serious issues with speech, eating and quality of life.
In these circumstances, orthodontists will recommend orthodontic treatment to slowly and gradually reposition teeth. This kind of treatment is designed to leave teeth straighter, helping the patient to achieve a more symmetrical smile.
Whether orthodontic issues develop due to hereditary or genetic factors, or because of injuries or bad habits, it's important to have them treated as soon as possible. Resolving issues with gaps between teeth, a "bad bite" or a misaligned jaw can reduce risks to a patient's oral health, improve the function and appearance of their teeth and boost their quality of life.
What are some common orthodontic treatments?
Your orthodontist may recommend one (or a combination) of these orthodontic treatments to help correct your orthodontic issue, depending on the nature of the problem:
- Oral surgery
- Orthodontic braces
- Clear aligners
- Head gear
- Removable appliances
Each of these will require a threefold effort on the part of the patient, their dentist and their orthodontist to achieve the intended proper results, since each of these treatment methods requires both care and maintenance.
What are the benefits of orthodontic treatments?
People of any age can benefit from orthodontic treatment. If your teeth are positioned improperly or misaligned, your risk of gum disease and tooth decay increases.
Your teeth may also be more difficult to floss, which can lead to poor oral hygiene as you get older – which can negatively affect your oral health and your overall health.
Effective orthodontic treatments can:
- Fix improper bites
- Improve oral function (including speech and eating)
- Straighten crooked teeth
- Properly align your teeth and jaw
- Close gaps between teeth
- Ensure crowded teeth are appropriately spaced
How do I know if I need orthodontic treatment?
If your jaw is misaligned or you have crowded, crooked, protruding or missing teeth, you may notice some difficulty with eating, chewing foods or speaking. Patients can also sometimes experience pain or muscle tension, or painful symptoms in their jaw if the problem is related to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Disorder.
Your dentist may also review your dental history, or mention issues with your bite or jaw during a regular oral examination, and refer you to an orthodontist who can meet your needs by developing a custom treatment plan.
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Because each patient is different, your orthodontist will estimate the duration of your treatment based on your specific case.
The severity of your orthodontic issue, your age, the treatment method used and other factors can influence how long your treatment will take. Generally, you’ll visit your dentist or orthodontist regularly for a period of months or years.
Adults typically take longer to treat than teens or children. Most people will wear orthodontic braces for approximately 2 years. You’ll receive specific instructions from your orthodontist to help you achieve the intended results from your treatment.