Orthodontic treatment is a way of correcting teeth and jaw alignment problems with braces and plates to improve the appearance, health and function of the teeth and jaws.
The benefits of orthodontic treatment include:
The best time to have an orthodontic assessment is around the age of 8-9 years of age, once the adult first molars and the adult front teeth have erupted. Orthodontic treatment may be started earlier to prevent orthodontic problems from getting worse or may prevent damage to the teeth and gums. It may also lead to shorter and less complicated treatment in future. Early treatment is often relatively simple with a minimum of appliances and can be done whilst baby teeth are still present.
Full orthodontic treatment generally involves a course of fixed appliances (braces) when all the adult teeth are present. Adults can also have orthodontic treatment successfully although treatment may take longer and since the bones are no longer growing jaws surgery is sometimes required to correct bite issues.
1.Examination and treatment planning
A full examination is required to aid in a proper diagnosis. Records taken include –impressions (to make plaster moulds), photographs of the teeth and face, x-rays of the teeth and jaws.
After a diagnosis is made advice can be given on the treatment options, when it should commence, length and cost of treatment. Where it is too early to start treatment the patient is reviewed regualrly until the time to commence.
2. Extractions and other dental treatment
Teeth may need to be removed to provide enough space to align the teeth. A check up, xrays, clean and restorations of cavities should be completed prior to commencing orthodontic treatment.
3. Orthodontic appliances
Braces consist of bands, brackets and wires remain the most efficient and accurate way of moving teeth. They can be made of stainless steel and other metal alloys or ceramic. Adjustments are made every 4-8 weeks. During treatment some patients will need to use elastic bands and headgear in conjunction with their braces to deliver additional force to their teeth.
An alternative to braces are sequential clear plastic aligners e.g. Invisalign which can correct mild to moderate crowding. They are made in a set with each retainer worn a minimum of 22 hours a day and changed every two weeks.
Other appliances will be used preceeding braces e.g. arch expanders to expand the palate or functional appliances to encourage growth of the lower jaw.
4. Maintenance of dental hygiene
Braces trap food and cause more plaque build up than usual. During braces patients must commit to a strict daily oral hygiene routine (brushing twice a day and after meals with a fluoridated toothpaste and using interdental brushes underneath wires and around brackets, and flossing once a day).
Avoiding snacking on sugary food or drink will help prevent damage to your teeth. Patients should continue having check ups and cleans every six months with their dentist. Poor oral hygiene during braces can lead to cavities, white spots developing around the brackets and gum inflammation.
5. Length of orthodontic treatment
Treatment time varies depending on the complexity of the original problem, the type of treatment carried out and the patient’s compliance. In general treatment will take approximately 24 months.
At the completion of treatment braces are removed and retainers will be fitted to keep teeth in their new position. If they are not worn according to instruction teeth can move out of alignment. Review appointments are made to inspect the teeth periodically for movement.