You’ve heard the word 'orthodontics', but what does it mean, and how can an orthodontist help you? Today, our North York dental team explains the basics of this dental specialty.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialty within the field of dentistry that focuses on treating irregularities in teeth (especially irregularities involving improper positioning, occlusion and alignment) and jaws.
Conditions such as overcrowded or crooked teeth, jaw misalignments, overbites or underbites can cause oral health issues and lead to serious problems with speech, eating and quality of life issues.
In these cases, your dentist or orthodontist will recommend orthodontic treatment to slowly and gradually reposition teeth so they are straighter, leaving the patient with a more symmetrical smile.
Whether orthodontic issues crop up because of genetic or hereditary factors, or because of bad habits or injuries, it’s important to treat them as soon as possible. Resolving issues with a “bad bite”, gaps between teeth or a misaligned jaw can reduce a patient’s oral health risks, improve the function and appearance of teeth and increase quality of life.
What are some common orthodontic treatments?
Depending on your orthodontic issue, your dentist or orthodontist may recommend one (or a combination) of these orthodontic treatments to help correct it:
- Orthodontic braces
- Head gear
- Clear aligners
- Removable appliances
- Oral surgery
Each of these will require a threefold effort on the part of the orthodontist, the dentist and the patient to achieve the best possible results, as each of these treatment methods requires care and maintenance.
What are the benefits of orthodontic treatments?
People of any age can benefit from orthodontic treatment. If your teeth are positioned improperly or misaligned, your risk of gum disease and tooth decay increases.
Your teeth may also be more difficult to floss, which can lead to poor oral hygiene as you get older – which can negatively affect your oral health and your overall health.
Effective orthodontic treatments can:
- Fix improper bites
- Improve oral function (including speech and eating)
- Straighten crooked teeth
- Properly align your teeth and jaw
- Close gaps between teeth
- Ensure crowded teeth are appropriately spaced
How do I know if I need orthodontic treatment?
If your jaw is misaligned or you have crowded, crooked, protruding or missing teeth, you may notice some difficulty with eating, chewing foods or speaking. Patients can also sometimes experience pain or muscle tension, or painful symptoms in their jaw if the problem is related to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) Disorder.
Your dentist may also review your dental history, or mention issues with your bite or jaw during a regular oral examination, and refer you to an orthodontist who can meet your needs by developing a custom treatment plan.
How long does orthodontic treatment take?
Because each patient is different, your dentist or orthodontist will estimate the duration of your treatment based on your specific case.
The severity of your orthodontic issue, your age, the treatment method used and other factors can influence how long your treatment will take. Generally, you’ll visit your dentist or orthodontist regularly for a period of months or years.
Adults typically take longer to treat than teens or children. Most people will wear orthodontic braces for approximately 2 years. You’ll receive specific instructions from your orthodontist to help you achieve the intended results from your treatment.