Orthodontics and Braces

Dental Braces & Teeth Orthodontics Braces Treatment

Orthodontics, formally Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics is the first specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusion (improper bites), which may be a result of tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships, or both. Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or can deal with the control and modification of facial growth.

Orthodontics is the study of dentistry that is concerned with the treatment of improper bites, and crooked teeth. Orthodontic treatment can help fix the patient’s teeth and set them in the right place. Orthodontists usually use braces and retainers to set the patient’s teeth. There are, however, orthodontists who work on reconstructing the entire face rather than focusing exclusively on teeth. After a course of active orthodontic treatment, patients will typically wear retainers, which maintain the teeth in their improved positions while surrounding bone reforms around them. The retainers are generally worn full-time for a period, anywhere from just a few days to a year, then part-time (typically, nightly during sleep) for as long as the orthodontist recommends. It is possible for the teeth to stay aligned without regular retainer wear. However, there are many reasons teeth will crowd as a person ages, whether or not the individual ever experienced orthodontic treatment; thus there is no guarantee that teeth will stay aligned without retention. For this reason, many orthodontists prescribe night-time or part-time retainer wear for many years after orthodontic treatment (potentially for life). Adult orthodontic patients are more likely to need lifetime retention.

Boy with braces and headgear

Braces for Children

Many children are ambivalent about getting braces.  On one hand, they like the idea of perfect teeth, but on the other hand, they are nervous about whether the braces will cause pain and discomfort.  The good news is that the placement of orthodontic braces is not at all painful, and the end result will be a beautiful straight smile.

Although patients of any age can benefit from orthodontic braces, they tend to work much quicker on pre-teens and teenagers since they are still experiencing jaw growth.  The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should first see an orthodontist around the age of seven years-old.  An orthodontic examination may be beneficial before age seven if facial or oral irregularities are noted.

What causes misalignment of teeth?

Poorly aligned teeth often cause problems speaking, biting and chewing.  Most irregularities are genetic or occur as a result of developmental issues.  Conversely, some irregularities are acquired or greatly exacerbated by certain habits and behaviors such as:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb or finger sucking
  • Prolonged pacifier use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Poor nutrition
Teenager with braces

What's involved when a child gets braces?

The orthodontist initially conducts a visual examination of the child’s teeth.  This will be accompanied by panoramic X-rays, study models (bite impressions), and computer generated images of the head and neck.  These preliminary assessments are sometimes known as the “planning phase” because they aid the orthodontist in making a diagnosis and planning the most effective treatment.

In many cases, the orthodontist will recommend “fixed” orthodontic braces for a child.  Fixed braces cannot be lost, forgotten or removed at will, which means that treatment is completed more quickly.  Removable appliances may also be utilized, which are less intrusive and are generally used to treat various types of defects.

Here is a brief overview of some of the main types of orthodontic appliances used on children:

  • Fixed braces – Braces are comprised of brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth and an archwire that connects the brackets.  The brackets are usually made of metal, ceramic, or a clear synthetic material which is less noticeable to the naked eye.  After braces have been applied, the child will have regular appointments to have the braces adjusted by the orthodontist.  Orthodontic elastic bands are often added to the braces to aid in the movement of specific teeth.
  • Headgear – This type of appliance is most useful to treat developmental irregularities.  A headgear is a custom-made appliance attached to wire that aids in tooth movement.  A headgear is intended to be worn for 12-20 hours each day and must be worn as recommended to achieve the intended result.
  • Retainers – Retainers are typically utilized in the third phase (retention phase).  When the original malocclusion has been treated with braces, it is essential that the teeth do not regress back to the original misalignment.  Wearing a retainer ensures that teeth maintain their proper alignment and gives the jawbone around the teeth a chance to stabilize.
More to Explore

More to Explore: Related Orthodontic Articles

Invisalign - Dear Doctor Magazine

Clear Orthodontic Aligners

The orthodontic treatment using clear aligners consists of a series of aligners that you change about every two weeks over a course of treatment lasting six to eighteen months depending on how much movement is needed...Read Article

Clear Aligners - Dear Doctor Magazine

Clear Aligners for Teenagers

Teens who regard traditional braces as restrictive, confining, and obstructive to their lifestyles now have another choice for orthodontic treatment: clear aligners. This advanced dental technology, originally geared toward adults, has recently evolved to treat a greater variety of bite problems in younger people. These improved orthodontic appliances can help teens function normally during a difficult phase of life...Read Article

Orthodontics - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Magic of Orthodontics

Proper alignment of the teeth is basic to “Smile Design.” Their position dictates how they work together and affects the way you look and smile. Only orthodontic treatment can move teeth into the right position. Simply put, when things look right, they probably are right. Learn the basics of smile analysis and design and whether the magic of orthodontics will work for you...Read Article

Orthodontics for adults - Dear Doctor Magazine

Orthodontics for the Older Adult

Healthy teeth can be moved at any age, so there’s no such thing as “too old” for braces. In fact, nowadays about one out of every five orthodontic patients is an adult. Yet this figure represents only a small portion of adults who could actually benefit from orthodontic treatment...Read Article