All about orthodontics
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that deals with problems with the alignment of your teeth and jaws.
You might need to see an orthodontist if you have any of the following:
- An overbite, where the top teeth push too far forward of the bottom teeth. This can be responsible for speech difficulties, gum problems, jaw pain, and headaches.
- An underbite, where the bottom jaw pushes out past the top jaw. This can be responsible for chewing problems, speech difficulties, sleep apnoea, halitosis, and headaches.
- Widely-spaced teeth with gaps where food can get stuck and cause cavities, bleeding and sore gums and bad breath.
- An overcrowded jaw with too many teeth. This can make it difficult to clean them properly and lead to periodontitis.
- An open bite, where the front teeth on the top and bottom jaws don’t meet. This can prevent people from biting into food properly, cause speech problems, or fracture the back teeth.
What are the types of treatment available?
After the orthodontist helps someone find the right course of treatment, they will be fitted with either braces or clear aligners to move their teeth and jaw into the right position. Treatment can take from between 3 months and a year, and the patient will have to wear a retainer for a couple of months after the braces come off or they’re allowed to stop using the clear aligners.
Clear aligners are designed to be invisible. They’re clear plastic plates are worn over your teeth. Your specialist will use X-rays, pictures, and impressions to create a precise 3-D image of your teeth to build your aligner trays. Unlike traditional braces, they can be taken out to eat or brush your teeth, so you can eat what you like, and they are more comfortable than metal braces.
Braces are made of metal brackets which are glued to your teeth and tied together by wires and tiny rubber bands. Nowadays, you can get brackets to more closely match your enamel colour to make them more discrete.
It’s best to avoid hard, sticky, or chewy foods while you have braces attached as the wires can come free of the brackets and cause discomfort. The metal brackets attached to the teeth can also sometimes cause irritation on the inside of the lips. Braces can make your teeth difficult to clean, so it’s important to make sure you stick to a good dental hygiene routine while you’re wearing them.
How do they work?
Both braces and clear aligners gently move your teeth and jaws over time into alignment for a better bite and improved dental health. They use gentle pressure to shift teeth and are adjusted by your orthodontist every 6 to 8 weeks.
Once your teeth have been brought into alignment, your braces will be removed, or you can stop wearing your clear aligners. However you will still need to wear a retainer for up to a year to keep the teeth from shifting back into their original position. You’ll start out by wearing the retainer all the time, then gradually shift to only wearing it at night.