Basic Information About Orthodontics
Orthodontics is a special field of dentistry that focuses on the prevention and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws. While a general dentist focuses primarily on cavities and gum disease, orthodontists promote healthy teeth by targeting issues like improper jaw alignment, crooked teeth, and crowded teeth. But creating a beautiful, straight smile isn’t all that orthodontists do. By treating some of the underlying orthodontic problems that lead to tooth decay and tooth loss, orthodontists also help their patients maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Orthodontic appliances like braces work by slowly and constantly moving teeth into position until they are properly aligned and placed. Braces can be made of metal, ceramic, or plastic, and some are practically invisible. Getting braces isn’t just about having a beautiful smile, however. In some cases, seeing an orthodontist for preventative diagnosis and care can help prevent more costly dental procedures later.
Orthodontic Treatment for Children
Not all children need orthodontic care, but all children do need monitoring so that any dental problems that may arise can be found early. In general, the earlier a problem is identified, the less invasive the treatment needed to correct it.
Since most children do not start seeing their first permanent teeth (their first molars) until age 6, it is generally recommended that you begin monitoring your child’s jaw and tooth growth around age 7. Symptoms to look for that could indicate early orthodontic care is needed include:
- Early loss of permanent teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Gaps between the front teeth
- Difficulty chewing, missing teeth
- Cheek biting, thumb sucking
- Over or underbite
- Clenching or grinding of teeth
When treatment is begun early, your orthodontist can guide the growth of the jaw and permanent teeth, preventing or diminishing further misalignment or damage. Using traditional braces, spacers, lingual braces, and other treatment methods, orthodontists can help children grow up with confident, healthy smiles.
Orthodontic Treatment for Adults
For many adults who needed braces as children but didn’t get them, adult orthodontic care can help improve their oral health, appearance, and self-esteem. The same orthodontic issues that affect children can affect adults if left untreated. And, after years of poor tooth and jaw alignment, those issues can result in significant damage to teeth, gums, and jaws.
Health risks associated with untreated orthodontic problems include:
- Jaw or facial pain
- “Oral” problems (chewing, speaking, or biting)
- Inability to properly clean teeth, increasing the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease
- Irregular or severe wearing of tooth enamel
Contrary to popular belief, adults often seek orthodontic care to have their teeth straightened or properly aligned.
Although most of the orthodontic treatment options available to children are available to adults, the one limitation that adult patients have is that their jaws are no longer growing. So, if an adult’s jaws are significantly out of alignment, surgery may be needed to get a complete correction. In addition, adults seeking orthodontic care are often interested in orthodontic alternatives like Invisalign® and suresmile® that minimize the appearance and time of care.