Orthodontics (Braces)  

Orthodontics is the science of straightening and correcting teeth.

Who Needs Orthodontic Treatment?

  • Children as well as adults, are choosing to have orthodontic treatment for several reasons:
-malocclusion (bite or occlusion is off)

-tooth malalignment (crooked teeth)

-unhappy with appearance of teeth

  • During the preteen and teenage years, the jaws are growing and maturing, therefore it is easier to shift teeth at this stage rather than later on in adulthood.
  • More adults are choosing to have orthodontic treatment in order to improve the appearance of their teeth. Since their jaws are no longer growing, treatment may take a little longer.

What Causes Malocclusion?

  • Hereditary - for example, you may inherit your mother's small jaw, and your father's large teeth; if this is the case, your teeth would be too large to fit your jaw.
  • Trauma - if you lose a tooth due to an accident, then teeth may start to drift into the empty space.
  • Disease - you can lose a tooth early due to cavities or gum disease; this often leaves a space which other teeth drift towards.
  • Malnutrition - nutritional deficiencies can alter the growth of the jaws and teeth.
  • Habits - thumb-sucking can shift the teeth out of alignment.

Why Treat Malocclusion?

  • Orthodontics is not only used to improve your appearance.
  • Malocclusion or malaligned teeth can have long term effects, such as:
- interference with normal growth and development of the jaws

- abnormal swallowing patterns

- abnormal facial muscle function

- impairment of chewing

- speech defects

- susceptibility to cavities due to the difficulty of removing plaque from crooked teeth

- vulnerability to accidents or fractured teeth (if your front teeth stick out, they may be more easily injured)

How Do Braces Work?
  • Teeth can slowly be moved and shifted into proper position by applying pressure in certain directions. Bands, wires and elastics are placed on the teeth to move them in the right direction. This takes place slowly and carefully over an extended period of time.
  • Shifting teeth back into a functional position can take months to years, but eventually you'll have a new and improved mouth!
  • Retainers are often used after the braces, to hold the teeth in their new position until they are stable.
  • It is important to wear the braces or an appliance for however long it takes. If you quit at any point during treatment, the teeth can shift back into their old position.

How To Take Care Of Your Braces

  • Braces collect food and dental plaque very easily. If proper oral hygiene is neglected during orthodontic treatment both tooth decay and periodontal disease can easily occur.
  • It is very important to maintain a daily plaque control program. This program can be determined by your dental hygienist. Such a program may be as follows:
  • A soft toothbrush should be used. A special orthodontic toothbrush can also be used to brush your teeth.
  • Flossing with braces takes more time than usual. Superfloss or floss threaders can aid in flossing, and make it more time efficient.
  • An interdental brush can be used to fit between the wire and the tooth to remove hard-to-reach plaque and food debris.
  • Oral irrigators can be used as an adjunct to brushing and flossing. This helps remove food debris and plaque.
  • A mouthwash containing fluoride can be used to help prevent cavities from occurring.
  • Hard foods should be avoided since they can bend the wires, loosen the bands, or break the brackets. Fruits and raw vegetables should be cut up into smaller pieces and chewed on the back teeth.
  • Sticky foods such as gum, toffee and caramel should be avoided since they can bend and break the wires and brackets.
  • Foods high in sugar should also be avoided, since this increases the chances of tooth decay.
  • Regular dental appointments are important to monitor the health of the teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment.
  • Orthodontics is a lot of work and taking care of them is not easy, but in the end, the results will be worthwhile when you have your new and improved smile.

Illustrations courtesy of Oral-B laboratories 2003

This site is intended as general information only and should not
replace regular consultation with Dr.Talcott or the
Dental Hygienist. Copyright 2003 Dr Bob Talcott, DDS

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