When patients hear the word orthodontics, they immediately associate it with braces. But creating a beautiful smile involves much more than metal brackets and wires.
If you’re considering orthodontic treatment, it’s recommended to thoroughly understand the options available to treat your individual orthodontic needs. An orthodontist has extensive education and knowledge in regards to the bite, jaws, teeth, and facial structures. They specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities, and also have the ability to determine underlying causes of malocclusions (bad bites). This is all imperative to the treatment planning process. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that one hundred percent of orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists.
What is Orthodontics?
According to the Canadian Association of Orthodontics, the practice of orthodontics requires professional skill in the design, application, and control of corrective appliances to bring teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment to achieve facial balance.
We all know that braces help to properly straighten teeth. But what you may not know is that a beautiful smile is just one of the benefits that orthodontics has to offer. Bringing the teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment not only produces an attractive smile but a healthy one as well. Simply put, straight teeth function better.
Your mouth is more connected to the rest of your body than you might think. Many systemic health conditions appear in the mouth first, so regular visits to your dentist for exams are essential to keep your entire body healthy. Conditions such as overcrowded or crooked teeth, jaw misalignment, and overbites or underbites, can cause oral health problems and lead to future issues with eating, speaking, and your overall quality of life
Depending on your orthodontic needs, there are a variety of treatment options available including orthodontic braces, head gear, clear aligners, removable appliances, retainers, and oral surgery. Each treatment method requires effort on the part of the orthodontist, dentist, and patient.
Braces are the most common type of orthodontic treatment used by orthodontists. Traditional metal braces are brackets and arch wires attached to each tooth and held in place with rubber or wire ties. The pressure applied to each tooth will gradually shift the teeth over time. But as orthodontics continues to advance, today’s braces are much smaller and less noticeable. There’s the option of tooth-coloured ceramic braces and discreet, clear aligners.
Removable appliances may not be as precise as braces but are still effective in helping to shift teeth. They can be worn before braces are applied, while braces are worn, or on their own to treat specific orthodontic issues. Once braces have been removed, a retainer, whether fixed or removable, is often used to maintain the new position of your teeth.
If significant orthodontic treatment is needed to correct a misaligned bite, jaw surgery may be recommended. This is usually the case when there are major differences in the size or position of the upper and lower jaws.
Benefit of Treatment
There are many benefits of orthodontic treatment and it goes far beyond a straight, beautiful smile.
Red and swollen gums can be a result of overcrowded or gapped teeth. These symptoms of gum disease can be minimized with properly aligned teeth. Proper tooth alignment helps your gums properly fit around your teeth and reduces your risk of developing gum disease. Additionally, crooked teeth are more likely to gather food build up even with regular brushing and flossing. Trapped food particles can lead to even more plaque build up, increasing the potential risk of tooth decay.
Effective orthodontic treatments can fix improper bites, properly align your jaw and teeth, straighten crooked teeth, close gaps, and improve overall oral function. It’s worth mentioning the psychological benefit of increased confidence and self-esteem, which plays a significant role in the decision to pursue treatment.
Am I a Candidate for Treatment?
People of any age can benefit from orthodontic treatment. It not only improves the appearance of your smile but your overall health as well. Your dentist will review your dental history thoroughly and inform of any issues with your bite or jaw during a routine oral examination.
The Canadian Association of Orthodontics recommends that children have an orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven. If problems are detected, it’s much easier to treat potential issues while the teeth and jaw are still in a developmental stage.
Besides fixing misaligned teeth and achieving the smile you’ve always hoped for, remember that taking care of your teeth and gums is a lifelong commitment. If you’re investing the time and money into a new smile, it’s important to maintain a diligent at-home oral care routine and visit your dentist for routine exams and professional cleanings