Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws, and misaligned bite patterns. It can also focus on modifying facial growth, known as dentofacial orthopedics.
No matter what your age, orthodontics can protect your bite (occlusion), maximize your teeth’s effectiveness in performing their functions and create a well-aligned smile. Today’s treatments involve repositioning of the teeth and underlying roots, providing better support for the crown of the tooth. Orthodontic treatment can also rejuvenate your facial appearance by reshaping the jaw, neck and lips, especially when combined with maxillofacial surgical procedures. In addition, well-aligned teeth make oral hygiene easier to maintain.
If you are a candidate for orthodontics, you will likely get an evaluation of your bite. During your first visit, your orthodontist may use several methods to develop an individualized treatment plan, including:
We will review your dental records, perform a clinical assessment, take X-rays of your mouth and head and make models of the teeth by creating an accurate impression of them. The results of this evaluation are studied in order to formulate the best treatment plan for you.
Typically during the second visit, the treatment plan is reviewed and an estimate for the number of months required for the active phase of treatment is discussed. (The standard treatment phase is two years.) Following treatment, you may be required to wear a retainer for a period of time.
The duration of orthodontic treatment varies based on your age, the extensiveness of the procedure (some people require more work than others) and how closely you follow your treatment plan. For example, younger patients may respond more quickly to treatment than older patients because the bones supporting young teeth are more pliable than those supporting older teeth. However, adults tend to follow treatment instructions more consistently than pre-teens.
In some cases the treatment time is longer. For example, oral surgery and recovery may be needed before or during treatment.
Nearly 50% of the developed world’s population, according to the American Association of Orthodontics, has malocclusions severe enough to benefit from orthodontic treatment.
Abnormal alignment of the teeth and jaws is very common. Treatment may require several months, and entails using dental braces and other appliances to gradually adjust tooth position and jaw alignment.