What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion,” which means “bad bite.” The practice of orthodontics requires professional skill in the design, application, and control of corrective appliances, such as braces, to bring teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment and to achieve facial balance.
What is an orthodontist?
All orthodontists are dentists, but only about 6 percent of dentists are orthodontists. An orthodontist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists must first attend university, and then complete a four-year dental graduate program at a university dental school. They must then successfully complete an additional two- to three-year residency program of advanced education in orthodontics. Through this training, the orthodontist learns the skills required to manage tooth movement (orthodontics) and guide facial development (dentofacial orthopedics).
What causes orthodontic problems (malocclusions)?
Acquired malocclusions can be caused by trauma (accidents), thumb, finger or dummy (pacifier) sucking, airway obstruction by tonsils and adenoids, dental disease or premature loss of primary (baby) or permanent teeth. Whether inherited or acquired, many of these problems affect not only alignment of the teeth but also facial development and appearance as well.
Why is orthodontic treatment important?
Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This may contribute to conditions that cause not only tooth decay but also eventual gum disease and tooth loss. Other orthodontic problems can contribute to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, inefficient chewing function, excessive stress on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth, or misalignment of the jaw joints, which can result in chronic headaches or pain in the face or neck.
Will I need to have teeth extracted for braces?
Removing teeth is sometimes required to achieve the best orthodontic result. Straight teeth and a balanced facial profile are the goal of orthodontics. However, because new technology has provided advanced orthodontic procedures, removing teeth is not always necessary for orthodontic treatment.
Do I need to see my family dentist while in braces?
Yes! Regular checkups with your family dentist are important while in braces. Your family dentist will determine the intervals between cleaning appointments while you are in braces.
What are the most commonly treated orthodontic problems?
Crowding: Teeth may be aligned poorly because the dental arch is small and/or the teeth are large. The bone and gums over the roots of extremely crowded teeth may become thin and recede as a result of severe crowding. Impacted teeth (teeth that should have come in, but have not), poor biting relationships and undesirable appearance may all result from crowding.
Overjet or protruding upper teeth: Upper front teeth that protrude beyond normal contact with the lower front teeth are prone to injury, often indicate a poor bite of the back teeth (molars), and may indicate an unevenness in jaw growth. Commonly, protruded upper teeth are associated with a lower jaw that is short in proportion to the upper jaw. Thumb and finger sucking habits can also cause a protrusion of the upper incisor teeth.
Deep overbite: A deep overbite or deep bite occurs when the lower incisor (front) teeth bite too close or into the gum tissue behind the upper teeth. When the lower front teeth bite into the palate or gum tissue behind the upper front teeth, significant bone damage and discomfort can occur. A deep bite can also contribute to excessive wear of the incisor teeth.
Open bite: An open bite results when the upper and lower incisor teeth do not touch when biting down. This open space between the upper and lower front teeth causes all the chewing pressure to be placed on the back teeth. This excessive biting pressure and rubbing together of the back teeth makes chewing less efficient and may contribute to significant tooth wear.
Spacing: If teeth are missing or small, or the dental arch is very wide, space between the teeth can occur. The most common complaint from those with excessive space is poor appearance.
Crossbite: The most common type of a crossbite is when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth (toward the tongue). Crossbites of both back teeth and front teeth are commonly corrected early due to biting and chewing difficulties.
Underbite or lower jaw protrusion: About 3 to 5 percent of the population has a lower jaw that is to some degree longer than the upper jaw. This can cause the lower front teeth to protrude ahead of the upper front teeth creating a crossbite. Careful monitoring of jaw growth and tooth development is indicated for these patients.
How often will I have appointments?
Appointments are scheduled according to each patient’s needs. Most patients in braces will be seen every 4 to 8 weeks. If there are specific situations that require more frequent monitoring, we will schedule appointments accordingly.
Can I schedule all of my appointments after school?
Unfortunately, we cannot schedule all appointments for students during after-school hours. However, because most appointments are scheduled 4 to 8 weeks apart, most patients will miss minimal school due to their orthodontic treatments. We will, however, make a sincere effort to meet your scheduling needs.
Why should children have an orthodontic screening no later than age 7?
By age 7, enough permanent teeth have come in and enough jaw growth has occurred that the dentist or orthodontist can identify current problems, anticipate future problems and alleviate parents’ concerns if all seems normal. The first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in by age 7, and crossbites, crowding and developing injury-prone dental protrusions can be evaluated. Any ongoing finger sucking or other oral habits can be assessed at this time also.
Some signs or habits that may indicate the need for an early orthodontic examination are:
- early or late loss of baby teeth
- difficulty in chewing or biting
- mouth breathing
- thumb sucking
- finger sucking
- crowding, misplaced or blocked out teeth
- jaws that shift or make sounds
- biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
- teeth that meet abnormally or not at all
- jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face
Why are retainers needed after orthodontic treatment?
After braces are removed, the teeth can shift out of position if they are not stabilized. Retainers provide that stabilization. They are designed to hold teeth in their corrected, ideal positions until the bones and gums adapt to the treatment changes. Wearing retainers exactly as instructed is the best insurance that the treatment improvements last for a lifetime.
What training do the assistants have?
Orthodontic assistants must undertake additional training in order to perform duties required in an orthodontic office. This additional training is only available for certified dental assistants that have been working for a minimum of one year.
I love Doritos and Ruffles! Can I still have them after I get my braces?
We love Doritos and Ruffles too! But there are some types of food to avoid during your orthodontic treatment! During your treatment, do not eat anything sticky, like caramel. Do not eat hard foods, like nut and hard candies. Do not eat foods that you have to take bites into, such as carrots or apples, unless you cook it and cut it into small pieces!
During patient’s treatments, we suggest they lessen the consumption of sugary soft drinks, like Coke or Pepsi, and candy. All that sugar is not good for teeth and it can cause unnecessary enamel scarring!
I'm the leading scorer on my basketball team. How can I afford to get braces?
You can continue to raise your stats while improving your bite and smile! We will provide you with an orthodontic sport mouthpiece. Many of our patients actually play contact sports, like soccer, ice hockey and cheerleading! Don’t worry – braces won’t hinder your performance as an athlete!
I'm too old for braces.
Really? Then I bet you didn’t know that adults make up 20% of our orthodontic practice! You’re never too old to improve your smile, bite and self-esteem! With the life expectancy continuing to rise, why live thirty, forty or perhaps even fifty years or more with problems that can be easily corrected with sixteen to twenty-four months of orthodontic treatment?
Am I too young for braces?
Did you know that the Canadian Association of Orthodontists recommends a consultation for all children by age seven! That’s because there’s a window of opportunity to utilize a child’s growth and development. We can eliminate the need for permanent extractions and avoid lengthy and difficult treatments without incredible advancements in this aspect of orthodontics. We love to share photos of actual patients who have benefited from our early phase of treatment. Results obtained by treating patients early with only a few simple appliances will amaze you!