Dental Health  /  What is Orthodontics? - Understanding Your Options

What is Orthodontics? – Understanding Your Options

Orthodontics is a specific area of dentistry focused on correcting what is known as a “bad bite” or malocclusion. This refers to any situation where the teeth are crooked or improperly placed. In some cases, even teeth that look straight need orthodontia to correct a bite where the upper and lower jaw do not meet. In extreme instances, the entire face may need to be reconstructed to properly repair the jaw structure and provide a corrected bite. In many cases, problems with bite or tooth positioning are simply inherited, though they may also be caused by accidents and other incidents.

Many individuals think of orthodontic care as a cosmetic type of dental work. However, this type of treatment is often done as much for health as it is for appearance. Teeth that do not align properly are more difficult to brush and floss. This will lead to serious problems such as gum disease and tooth decay. In extreme cases, teeth may even fall out. A misaligned bite causes many problems including difficulty eating and speaking. When orthodontic issues go untreated, the patient may experience much more serious problems later on. There are several different options available to correct these kinds of issues.

Traditional braces are one of the most common images that come to mind when one thinks of orthodontics. This type of treatment is composed of a series of brackets attached to the teeth with a chemical bonding agent. The brackets are attached to one another with wires. A ligature is placed over the bracket on each tooth to keep the wire securely in place. The ligature is the colored part of the braces that patients often change from month to month for a new look. The wires are slowly tightened at each visit causing the teeth to movie into the desired position.

In additional to the more traditional metal brackets, patients may also wear ceramic or plastic brackets. The brackets themselves are occasionally available in interesting shapes such as hearts to make braces more stylish and fun. In place of ligatures, some braces use an option known as self ligating braces. These feature a sliding mechanism in place of the ligatures. This typically makes the braces more comfortable to wear. Patients also require fewer trips to the orthodontist and see faster results with self ligating braces than they do with traditional braces that use ligatures. These features have made self ligating braces an increasingly popular option.

Aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that are becoming more and more prevalent. The best-known type of aligners is known as Invisalign. Each aligner is a clear plastic tray which fits over top of the teeth. Trays are custom made for the perfect fit and optimum comfort. Patients will go through several different aligners through the course of their treatment, with each tray positioning the teeth gradually closer together. The biggest appeal of aligners is that they are nearly invisible while they are being worn. Many patients are anxious for an orthodontic option that straightens teeth without the noticeable look of standard braces.

Many patients also find Invisalign to be a more convenient and comfortable treatment option. The aligners can be removed for daily brushing and flossing as well as for eating. You don’t face the food restrictions or troublesome cleaning routine that you find working around the wires and brackets of other types of braces. Though you will change to a new set of trays about every two weeks, you will only need to see your dentist or orthodontist about every six weeks. Since you can move to a new tray yourself, you don’t need as many trips in to the office.

In cases where braces aren’t an option, patients can also opt to get straighter teeth through the use of cosmetic dentistry. Cosmetic dentistry can handle many different problems. The shape or position of teeth can be subtly altered through a process known as tooth reshaping. The shape of teeth can also be changed with dental bonding. In this procedure, a dental composite that mimics the tooth’s own enamel is applied to the front of the teeth and carefully sculpted into the desired shape. Veneers are another type of cosmetic dental product. Veneers are bonded to the front of the teeth to cover gaps or discoloration.

If you want to fix the appearance of a gap or crooked teeth without the hassle of braces, you can also obtain what is known as a “snap on smile” at a cost that is very comparable to traditional braces. The snap on smile is formed to fit over your existing teeth, giving the appearance of a straighter smile without actually moving your teeth. The snap on smile looks just like you’ve gone to the trouble of having braces, but you won’t have to deal with any of the pain or time commitment. The snap on smile can even be removed at will if you change your mind about your look.

Orthodontic treatment usually takes place as soon as an adolescent has all of his or her adult teeth, between the ages of 8 and 14. Obtaining treatment during adolescence is the easiest option because the patient’s jaw and teeth are still growing and moving, making the process less difficult. However, it is never too late to correct your smile with orthodontics or cosmetic dentistry. Though braces may take a little longer with adults, they are still an option. Older patients can also opt for some of the simpler options such as veneers. You can talk to your dentist about your options for improving your smile at any time.

Orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry are available to change your smile in many different ways. With straighter teeth and a better bite, you may find eating and speaking to be more comfortable. You may also find dental care such as flossing is easier and more effective with your newly straightened teeth. Naturally, you will have a sleeker and more attractive smile to show off after these treatments. Whether you opt for traditional braces or innovative Invisalign, you can improve your smile at any point in your life if you’re struggling with crooked or crowded teeth. Make an appointment to talk to your dentist today.

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