Where dentistry is a broad speciality that focuses on issues to do with the gum, teeth, jaw and nerves, orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that is focused on the growth of the teeth and jaws, and how these can affect the face. It’s a speciality that is in high demand, with more than 200,000 patients seeking orthodontic treatment in England and Wales annually, according to the British Orthodontic Society (BOS). Privately, a growing number of patients are also seeking treatment. In the PDF attachment, find out more about the difference between orthodontics and dentistry.
Orthodontic treatment aims at improving the harmony of the jaws and teeth and is often used to treat the alignment and appearance of crowded, crooked or protruding teeth. The treatment is also useful in correcting bite problems with the teeth, thus reducing the chance of damage and improving the appearance of teeth. Such problems, if not well treated, can strain the jaw muscles and lead to their abnormal development, which can impact the shape of an individual’s face, called malocclusion. More information about malocclusion can be viewed the video attachment.
Most treatment options for orthodontics start with a referral from a general dentist to an orthodontics specialist at a local hospital or a private practice. Jonathan Alexander Abt is a Registered Specialist in Orthodontics who has been practising since the late 1980s and has treated numerous patients seeking orthodontic treatment. View the infographic attachment to learn more interesting facts about orthodontics.
In most cases, young patients who seek orthodontic treatment do so after adult teeth have come through, which for many happens at about 12 years of age. However, treatment can also be dependent on the number of adult teeth present and how the patient’s jaw and face have developed. For adults, treatment can begin at any age, but the options tend to be limited. It is vital to have good oral health standards since the chances of tooth decay increase with orthodontic treatment.
Several reasons lead patients to seek orthodontic treatment. Some of these include the following reasons:
- Deep bites – where the lower teeth are covered by the upper ones too much
- Reverse bites – where the upper teeth rest inside the lower teeth
- Impacted teeth – where secondary teeth grow in wrong positions or fail to come through at all
- Protruding teeth – where the upper front teeth protrude outward extensively
- Crowding – where a narrow jaw reduces the room for teeth to grow
- Asymmetry – where the teeth drift or the jaw shifts so that the centre lines of the lower and upper front teeth are not aligned
- Open bite – when a gap remains between the lower and upper front teeth even when the back teeth meet
To treat these teeth and jaw problems, various orthodontic appliances are used. The main types often used by specialists include the following appliances:
- Fixed braces – These are non-removable and are glued to the teeth and then held together by using wires.
- Headgear – Headgear is not an orthodontic appliance per se, but can be used to supplement other devices and is typically worn at night.
- Removable braces – They are plastic plates that are placed on the roof of the mouth and hold together some teeth.
- Functional appliances – These appliances are used to treat issues with the positioning of the lower and upper teeth.
Whatever the treatment or device used to correct a problem, it’s important for patients to follow the dental specialist’s instructions and observe excellent oral hygiene. That last part is important, as tooth decay is one of the common complications of treatment. Tooth decay occurs when plaque on the teeth produces acid. For people undergoing treatment, it can be hard keeping the teeth clean with worn appliances restricting proper brushing.
To remedy this, specialists often recommend using toothpaste or mouthwash with extra fluoride content. Patients are also advised to avoid the intake of fizzy and sugary drinks.