Orthodontic Treatment 101 - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Orthodontic Treatment 101

At what age can people have orthodontic treatment?

The biological process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age. Children and adults can both benefit from orthodontics. It is recommended that every child receive an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. Treatment may take a little longer for adults. Because an adult's facial bones are no longer growing, certain corrections may not be accomplished with braces alone.

What causes orthodontic problems?

An orthodontic problem is called a malocclusion, meaning "bad bite." Some examples of causes of malocclusion are crowded teeth, extra teeth, missing teeth or jaws that are out of alignment.

Most malocclusions are inherited, although some can be acquired. Acquired malocclusions can be caused by accidents, early or late loss of baby teeth, or sucking of the thumb or fingers for a prolonged period of time.

How are orthodontic problems corrected?

First, pretreatment records are made. These records are important tools for the dentist to use in making an accurate diagnosis. They include medical/dental history, clinical examination, plaster study models of teeth, photos of your face and teeth and x-rays of your mouth and head. This information will be used to decide on the best treatment.

A custom treatment plan is outlined for each patient. The specific treatment appliance best suited to correct the patient's orthodontic problem is constructed. There are a variety of different orthodontic appliances that may be used.

When the orthodontic appliances are in place, this is considered the "active treatment" phase. Appliances are adjusted periodically so that the teeth are moved correctly and efficiently.

The time required for orthodontic treatment varies from person to person. An important factor in how long a patient wears braces is how well the patient cooperates during treatment for example, by following instructions to wear rubber bands or head gear.

After active treatment is completed, the "retention" phase begins. A patient will need to wear a retainer so that the teeth stay in their new positions. For severe orthodontic problems, surgery may be recommended.

Are there less noticeable braces?

Today's braces are generally less noticeable than those of the past. Brackets, the part of the braces that hold the wires, are bonded to the front of the teeth. These brackets can be metal, clear, or tooth-colored. Wires that are used for braces today are also less noticeable. In some cases, brackets may be put on the back of the teeth (lingual appliances). Modern wires are also less noticeable than their predecessors. Today's wires are made of "space age" materials that exert a steady, gentle pressure on the teeth, making the tooth-moving process faster and more comfortable for patients.

How long will treatment take?

Although the average treatment time is about 24 months, this varies with individual patients. Usually, adult treatment takes a little longer than a child's treatment. Other things to keep in mind are the severity of the problem, the health of the teeth, gums and supporting bone and how closely the patient follows instructions. While orthodontic treatment requires a time commitment, most people feel the benefits are well worth the time invested.

Copyright American Dental Association.  All rights reserved.

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