The term ‘brace’ is used to refer to an orthodontic appliance designed to apply pressure to the teeth to change their alignment. The device is typically used for straightening of the teeth but may also be used for correction of the bite. The type of orthodontic treatment will vary depending on the needs of the individual, and different brace types will be considered accordingly.
Before embarking on orthodontic treatment, it is worth considering the options available and the desirable outcome, as well as seeking answers to any questions. Most specialist orthodontists and dentists who carry out orthodontic treatment belong to the British Orthodontic Society (BOS), which always recommends that individuals should find a dentist that is qualified to carry out such procedures.
Fixed appliance braces are the most popular form of orthodontic appliance treatment. There are many different types of fixed braces, such as metal, tooth-coloured enamel, and lingual braces which are fitted behind the teeth. Removable braces are another type of orthodontic treatment. Removable options include simple conventional types, functional appliances, and aligners.
Retainers are an essential part of post-treatment for most individuals. They are not classed as an orthodontic appliance as they do not move the teeth but are used to prevent them moving after the removal of braces. Teeth are prone to relapse after dental treatment and may return to their original position without retainers.
Orthodontic mini-implants, or temporary anchoring devices (TADs), are a more recent orthodontic development. These screw-like dental implants are made of titanium alloy and are a temporary treatment; they act as a fixed point around which teeth can be moved. Orthodontists usually create an anchor point using the back teeth, but TADs can be used if this is not possible.
When considering which type of orthodontic appliance to have, individuals should be aware that, under NHS guidelines, the orthodontist or dentist is free to choose the appliance they think is most suitable. However, most good practitioners will discuss these options with the patient and explain any risks or benefits. Individuals should be wary if only one option is discussed or offered.
Patients should expect to be informed about their treatment options and realistic outcome expectations; they should also be given a written treatment plan and thinking time before beginning any treatment. Ethical orthodontists and dentists will also be happy to talk through their credentials and experience. Orthodontic specialist Jonathan Alexander Abt has published numerous publications on orthodontics and dentofacial orthopaedics.
The length of treatment will depend on the individual case. Patients requiring simple teeth straightening can expect treatment to take as little as six months, particularly if only the front six teeth are affected. However, a treatment plan as short as this does not always give the teeth sufficient time to move into a position in which they will remain stable. To move the teeth, including roots, into the correct position can take much longer.
Orthodontic treatment lasting one to two years is usually enough to achieve good tooth positioning so that they line up correctly with the lips and jaw. This time frame is typically sufficient to maximise long-term tooth stability, although difficult cases can take even longer to treat.
There are many different factors to consider before deciding which type of brace is right for each individual. As the most sophisticated option, fixed braces remain the most common choice of orthodontic treatment. Patients should consider what they want to achieve from their treatment, do their research and discuss their options with an orthodontic practitioner.