Orthodontics is a speciality of dentistry which deals with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of misalignment, or malocclusion, of the teeth. Treatment typically takes between one and three years, with the braces tightened by an orthodontist or dentist every four to ten weeks. Depending on the individual patient needs, there are various treatment options for misaligned teeth.
A dentist will be able to recommend if orthodontic treatment is necessary. The patient’s dental health history will be one of the diagnostic tools used to determine if treatment is required. Photographs and X-rays will be taken, and plaster moulds of the teeth created in order to formulate the treatment plan.
Malocclusion includes a range of dental problems. Some of the most commonly treated include:
- Overbite – where the front, upper teeth protrude over the lower teeth
- Underbite – where the front, lower teeth protrude too far forward
- Spacing – spaces or gaps between the teeth, caused by teeth that are missing or teeth which do not ‘fill-up’ the mouth
- Crowding – when there are too many teeth to be accommodated on the dental ridge
Teeth that are improperly positioned are more difficult to keep clean and have increased susceptibility to tooth decay, tooth loss and periodontal disease. Crooked teeth and those that do not fit together correctly can also impact the chewing muscles, leading to TMJ syndrome, headaches, or back, neck and shoulder pain.
Modern treatment options include fixed appliances which are the most popular type of brace. As well as metal, fixed appliances now come in tooth-coloured ceramic and lingual braces, which fit behind the teeth. In addition to the simple, conventional type of removable braces, aligners and functional appliances are now also available.
Orthodontics is a constantly evolving field of dentistry. Recent developments include orthodontic mini-implants or temporary anchorage devices (TADs). A great deal of work and research is carried out by experts to explore the needs of patients. In 2013, registered orthodontic specialist Jonathan Alexander-Abt presented at the British Orthodontic Society on White Spot Lesions and Orthodontic Cements: What Matters Most to Patients and their Parents?
There are many advantages of orthodontic treatment for patients who need it and these are not restricted to cosmetic benefits. Orthodontic treatment can have a positive influence on the patient’s appearance but also improves the overall health of the mouth. This makes it more likely that teeth will last for the full lifetime of the patient.