What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is that branch of dentistry which specialises in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems in the alignment of teeth and jaws.
The technical term for these problems is malocclusion, which literally means bad bite.
Orthodontic treatment involves the design and use of corrective appliances (such as braces, plates, headgears and functional appliances) to bring the teeth and jaws into proper alignment.
Why straighten teeth?
People have orthodontic treatment to improve the appearance, health and function of their teeth.
People are very aware of how teeth look and an attractive smile can play an important role in enhancing self-confidence.
These days, with good oral hygiene and regular dental care, your teeth should last a lifetime - wouldn't it be nice if they
This section explains the various stages of a normal course of orthodontic treatment.
The first consultation
During this visit the patient is examined clinically. This enables the orthodontist to give advice on the treatment options available, when treatment should commence, the duration of treatment, and the approximate cost.
If the patient decides to proceed with treatment, an appointment is made to collect records.
- Plaster models of the teeth.
- Photographs of the teeth and face.
- X-rays of the teeth and jaws.
Records allow the orthodontist to analyse each case accurately. They are also used to record the existing malocclusion for future reference.
At this visit the orthodontist discusses the treatment plan(s) which have been formulated using information obtained from the first consultation and records.
Then, arrangements are made to commence treatment or, if it is too early, to review the patient periodically until it is an appropriate time to commence treatment.
Extractions and other preliminary procedures
Sometimes it is necessary to remove teeth to gain sufficient space to align the remaining teeth.
Any decayed teeth should be filled and the teeth sometimes need to be cleaned before orthodontic treatment is started.
The patient is referred back to the family dentist to have these preliminary procedures carried out. The cost of these procedures is not included in the orthodontic fee.
Braces are the most efficient and accurate way of moving teeth.
See how braces work.
Braces (bands, brackets and wires) are usually made of stainless steel although clear brackets are available, usually at extra cost.
Fitting the braces usually involves two visits. Braces remain on the teeth for the entire duration of treatment.
Patients then attend approximately every 4-8 weeks for adjustments, wire changes, etc.
Rubber Bands and Headgear
During treatment, patients may need to wear such items as rubber bands and/or headgear with their braces. These items provide important extra forces for the correction of the bite.
Orthodontic treatment usually takes 18 - 24 months. Some cases may be finished earlier and others may take longer to complete. The total treatment time depends on the severity of the original malocclusion, the type of treatment carried out, and the co-operation of the patient.
Orthodontic patients should continue to attend their family dentist for regular check-ups during the course of orthodontic treatment.
At the completion of the active part of orthodontic treatment, the braces are removed and retaining appliances (retainers) are fitted to hold the teeth steady in their new position. These appliances may be removable plates or wires fitted behind the teeth.
Retainers play an important role in orthodontic treatment for, if they are not worn according to instructions, the teeth may move back towards their original position.
The retaining appliances are usually worn:
- Full-time for up to one year.
- Just at night for a further year.
- Phased out altogether over one more years.
The corrected teeth are observed periodically for up to five years after the retainers have been phased out. During retention and the subsequent observation period, patients are expected to attend once or twice a year.
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