All About Orthodontics
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that is officially known as Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. The purpose of orthodontics is to treat any type of malocclusion, which is simply another way of saying “bad bite.”
When you have a malocclusion, that means your teeth, lips and/or jaws don’t line up the way they should. As a result, your teeth may be crooked, your bite may not work correctly and your jaws may look unbalanced.
To fix bad bites, orthodontists – dentists who are specially trained – use braces and other corrective procedures, including materials often called “appliances” to achieve tooth and jaw alignment. This correction of the teeth and their supportive structures makes for a healthy, attractive smile.
Most orthodontic problems are inherited. Examples of these genetic problems are crowding, spacing, protrusion, extra or missing teeth and some jaw growth problems.
Other malocclusions are acquired. In other words, they develop over time. They can be caused by thumb or finger-sucking, mouth breathing, dental disease, abnormal swallowing, poor dental hygiene, the early or late loss of baby (primary) teeth, loss of permanent teeth, accidents, poor nutrition, or some medical problems.
Sometimes, an inherited malocclusion is complicated by an acquired problem. But, whatever the cause, we are usually able to treat most conditions successfully.
Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. Such problems can contribute to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. A bad bite can also cause abnormal wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and/or speaking, excess stress on supporting bone and gum tissue, and possible jaw joint problems.
Then there’s the emotional side of an unattractive smile. When you’re not confident in the way you look, your self-esteem suffers. Children and adults whose malocclusions are left untreated may go through life feeling self-conscious, hiding their smiles with tight lips or a protective hand.
Finally, without treatment, many problems become worse. Orthodontic treatment to correct a problem may prove less costly than the additional dental care required to treat the more serious problems that can develop in later years.
An orthodontist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. All orthodontists are dentists, but only about six percent of dentists are orthodontists. Admission to orthodontic programs is extremely competitive and selective.
It takes many years to become an orthodontist and the educational requirements are demanding.
Only dentists who have successfully completed advanced specialty education programs may call themselves orthodontists.
When most people think of orthodontics, they think of teenagers, but most orthodontic treatment begins between the ages of 9 and 14. However, by age 7, most children have a good mix of adult and baby teeth. Orthodontists can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth during this transitional time. This is important because some orthodontic problems are easier to correct when they are found early.
It is for this reason, that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get an orthodontic screening no later than age 7. While your child’s teeth may appear to be straight, there may be problems that only an orthodontist can detect. Of course, this check-up may reveal that your child’s bite is fine.
Even if a problem is detected, we may not recommend immediate treatment. Chances are we will take the “wait and see” approach, periodically monitoring your child’s jaw growth and dental development. Dr. Gittess will determine the right time for treatment to begin in order to achieve the best results.
In some cases, Dr. Gittess may find a problem that can benefit from early treatment. Early treatment (also known as Phase I or interceptive treatment) may prevent more serious problems from developing and may make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. Treatment typically involves braces, or appliances that may be removable, to guide the growth of young bones and create the optimum environment for the emerging permanent teeth. In most Early Treatment cases, Dr. Gittess will be able to achieve results that wouldn’t be possible once the face and jaws have finished growing.
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age. In fact 30% of Dr. Gittess’ patients are over the age of 18. Today braces are smaller, less visible, and more comfortable. The only limitation to adult orthodontics is the health of the gums and supporting bone. Healthy teeth, gums and bone respond well to orthodontic treatment at any age.
First and foremost, orthodontic treatment involves the patient. To achieve the desired results, the patient must diligently follow our instructions about wearing orthodontic appliances and practice good dental hygiene. With braces, certain foods, like peanut brittle, caramels and bubble gum are off limits – as is chewing ice.
We provide custom-made braces, retainers or other corrective appliances, according to the problem being treated. Whether they’re removable or “fixed” into the mouth, whether they’re made of metal, ceramic or plastic, all orthodontic appliances have a common purpose – to use gentle pressure to move teeth and jaws into their proper positions. Today’s patients benefit from techniques and materials that enhance the comfort of orthodontic treatment.
Although every case is different, generally speaking, patients wear braces from one to three years. Treatment times vary with factors that include the severity of the problem being corrected and how well the patient follows our instructions.
Patients who brush and floss thoroughly and regularly; avoid hard and sticky foods; wear their rubber bands and/or headgear as instructed; and keep their appointments usually finish treatment on-time with good results.
After the braces are removed, most patients wear a retainer for some time to keep or “retain” the teeth in their new positions. We will determine how long the retainer needs to be worn. Most patients remain under our supervision during the retention phase to ensure that the teeth stay properly aligned.