What is an orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontics is a speciality in dentistry which focuses on re-aligning the misaligned teeth. The term "misaligned" could encompass a wide range of dental problems such as crowded, crooked or protruding teeth, jaw alignment problems, biting problems and any type of aesthetically unpleasing abnormalities. The branch of orthodontics specializes in solving the aforementioned alignment problems on the teeth and the jaw, hence restoring the patients smile and recuperating the functionality of the teeth simultaneously.
Orthodontists use various appliances to re-align the teeth properly, also a need for a dental operation might occur in some cases (such as tooth extraction to fix crowded teeth). Those appliances will gradually move the teeth and/or jaw structure to obtain an aesthetic appearance alongside with a functional set of teeth. For instance, the most commonly used appliances to treat orthodontic issues are: braces, clear aligners (invisalign), palatal expanders, space maintainers, retainers etc. The treatment procedure usually takes between 18 to 24 months, nevertheless the exact duration can vary depending on the situation and necessities of the patient. A properly executed orthodontic treatment can enhance the patients quality of life by giving the patient a brand new smile to exhibit confidently besides a perfectly functioning set of teeth.
Who needs Orthodontic treatment?
A necessity for orthodontic treatment can be determined in the general dental examination. If there is a necessity for an orthodontic treatment the patient is directed to an orthodontist to evaluate the exact orthodontic necessities and tailor a comprehensive treatment plan. By utilizing the clinical and technological tools (dental tomography, X-Ray) jointly, an orthodontist will accurately determine orthodontic problems regarding the jaw and teeth and will craft a treatment plan to fix them.
Orthodontic problems that require treatment could range from mildly misshapen teeth to an almost unfunctional jaw that cannot properly bite and chew. Here is a brief and orderly list of the most prevalent conditions that require an orthodontic treatment:
Teeth overcrowding can happen due to a multitude of reasons and often gets more aesthetically unpleasant and discomfortable as the person ages. Reasons for the overcrowding span a large range of topics but most often happens due to genetics, namely the inheritance of a small jaw from one parent and large teeth from the other, wisdom teeth not having a healthy space to grow in the mouth and pushing teeth in the process, older dental operations and wrong dental habits, such as unhealthy thumb sucking habits and the use of pacifiers.
Most preferred treatments for crowded teeth are dental braces, clear aligners and dental veneers. Said treatments usually work well enough by themselves that patients have no further complaints after the treatments.
Crooked teeth, just like teeth crowding can happen due to a vast range of reasons but is most often caused by poor genetics, small jaw size, thumb sucking, pacifier use, misaligned jaw and poor dental care. Crooked teeth are not only an aesthetical concern, but may also lead to discomfort during daily tasks such as chewing and speaking.
The most common treatment for crooked teeth is the usage of braces of different kinds, namely metal, ceramic and invisible braces, and most often gives way to very satisfying results. More severe cases however may require the patient to undergo surgeries for the treatment of crooked teeth.
Protruding teeth, most accurately described as the general outward tilting of teeth on one or both jaws, usually occurs due to wrong habits the patient has or had such as excessive thumb sucking, pacifier usage, prolonged bottle feeding during early childhood and tongue thrusting (either habitual or caused by other dental conditions). Reasons besides the patients habits are most often genetics, the improper alignment of jaws, missing or extracted teeth which has given way to the condition in the long run, gum diseases of various sorts and bone loss.
Braces are the most common and effective treatment for protruding teeth. Clear aligners and invisalign can also be preferred by patients for better aesthetics during the process of the treatment.
Overbite / Underbite / Crossbite
Overbite, underbite and crossbite refer to different variations of the improper alignment of patients teeth in their mouths. Overbite refers to the teeth of the upper jaw being excessively ahead of the teeth of the lower jaw, while underbite refers to the exact opposite situation. Overbite and underbite, on most cases occurs due to overgrown or undergrown lower jaws and rarely due to over or undergrown upper jaws which causes the teeth to be improperly situated in relation to one another. Crossbite can be conceived as a mixture of both cases, with some teeth on the upper jaw going over those on the lower jaw and some on the lower jaw going over those on the the upper jaw. Crossbite may happen due to both the improper growth of jaws or misplaced teeth on either jaw.
Overbite, underbite and crossbite may require means of treatment different to those of other orthodontic issues as they usually pertain to problems with the patients jaw and not teeth by themselves. If the position of teeth in the patients mouth is the sole problem, braces may be enough to treat the condition. For cases relating to the jaw however, jaw surgery may be required.
Open bite is the condition in which excess space is left between teeth when patients close their mouths. The gap may happen either on the front or the back side of the patients mouth and may lead to pain, oral hygiene issues or further complications such as tooth or gum decay if it not given the proper treatment. Open bite may be caused by a variety of different reasons but usually occurs due to a combination of genetics, excessive thumb sucking during early childhood, tongue thrusting and jaw related issues.
Braces, both traditional and clear aligner / invisalign types are used for the treatment of open bite issues, but more severe cases may require the patient to undergo oral surgery for the treatment of the condition. It may be difficult to tell which treatment would be the better option, and it is heavily recommended for patients to move in accordance with the advice of their doctors.
Excess space between teeth
Excess space between teeth, also referred to as diastema, usually takes place between the two front teeth of the patients mouth. The root cause of diastema can be a multitude of things, but is most often caused by either the genetics of the patients which led to large jaw and small teeth, an overgrowth of gum between the teeth affected by diastema or simply bad oral habits the patients have or had, such as excessive thumb sucking during early childhood, the usage of pacifiers or tongue thrusting.
As diastema is almost always a mild condition in terms of the difficulty of dentistry required to treat it, braces are the most preferred options to treat it. Some patients may choose to completely skip the treatment of the core issue and have dental veneers
to give the affected teeth better aesthetics.
Misaligned jaws are often caused either by the unhealthy positioning of teeth on one or both jaws or the under or overdevelopment of either the upper or lower jaw of the patient. Braces are used to treat issues relating to the positioning of teeth whereas different surgeries may be required to treat misalignment due to jaw related issues.
Most Common Types of Orthodontic Treatments
Clear aligners are a subtle and comfortable option to realign your teeth and achieve a brand new smile! As a popular alternative for braces, clear aligners stand out mainly for aesthetic reasons since they are transparent and provide a more aesthetic look during the process of the treatment. Furthermore they are easy to use and can be removed while eating and brushing. Hence, the patient can comprehensively clean her/his teeth during the treatment process, avoiding any unwanted consequences afterwards. Clear aligners work with the same principle as braces, they gently move the teeth to the desired direction by applying minimal pressure. For each step of the treatment, the patient is given a new aligner.
Dental braces are the most prevalent form of orthodontic treatment which has been utilized to realign the teeth structure over decades. Braces are composed of a set of brackets, mostly made of stainless steel and cemented to each tooth by a special bonding material. Then each bracket is connected to each other with an arch wire to complete the structure, in some cases additional elastic bands are required for connecting some brackets to each other to fix issues on the bite. They work by applying little amounts of pressure on to teeth to realign their allay, thus fixing the aesthetics of the smile. There are many types of dental bridges available, each designed for specific conditions alongside with providing the maximum comfort to the patient such as: lingual braces, ceramic braces, metal braces, self-ligating braces etc.
Orthodontic Mini Implants
Orthodontic Mini Implants or in other words Temporary Anchorage Devices are high technology solutions for advanced orthodontic treatments. The procedure involves implanting a titanium screw in the gums to provide an additional anchor point for the braces. An extra supporting anchor point substantially increases the efficiency of the treatment. Thus, by utilizing this technique advanced orthodontic problems could be treated.
Orthodontic headgear is used to control or fix the placement of the teeth in the back while the front teeth are in the process of orthodontic aligning. Headgear is usually worn part time since its usage restricts the patient from eating or drinking. Keep in mind that it's crucial to use the orthodontic headgear as advised.
Orthognathic surgery is performed to adjust the alignment of the jaws for the patients who have improper bite on a substantial level. Usually done in tandem with the other orthodontic treatments, orthognathic surgery can be done on a single jaw or the operation may comprise both jaws.
The sub-heading of functional appliances covers a wide range of orthodontic tools which are utilized to fix the specific orthodontic problems on the teeth and jaw. For instance, space maintainers to keep the space between the teeth open, palatal expanders to widen the upper jaw, jaw repositioning appliances to fix the alignment of the jaw when it closes, lip and cheek bumpers to keep the lips and cheeks away from the teeth and intercept the occurrence of any kind of remarkable pressure, retainer to ensure the teeth stays in their place for a short period after the orthodontic treatment etc.
In order for a proper alignment of the crowded teeth, removal of some "excess" teeth might be needed. Those "excess" teeths are usually the unfallen milk teeth of the patient, third molars (Wisdom tooth), or in some cases a consequence of a rare condition called "hyperdontia". Extraction of the excess teeth gives adequate room for the orthodontic treatment to proceed, thus enabling the proper realignment of the teeth in the mouth.