Orthodontics is the dental specialty that deals with creating a healthy bite—straight teeth that properly meet opposing teeth in the opposite jaw—by correcting improperly positioned teeth and jaws.
Teeth that are crooked, crowded, spaced too far apart or meet in an abnormal manner (open bite, under bite, overbite, cross bite) can affect us in several ways:
The most commonly used devices by your dentist to guide your teeth to their proper position are braces (fixed) and aligners (removable):
Dental braces are fixed dental devices (cannot be removed for eating or cleaning) that comprise of small metal brackets bonded to the front of the teeth and joined together with fine metal wires. Tightening these wires imparts tension on the teeth, gradually moving them to their proper position. Your dentist will make these adjustments to your braces monthly in order to bring about the desired results, which may be achieved within a few months to a few years.
There is no age limit for using braces. As long as you have good periodontal health, young and old patients can use braces to correct their bite.
Today's braces are smaller, lighter and show far less metal than in the past. They come in several types:
Aligners are removable dental devices that are an alternative to traditional braces. Similar to braces, aligners use a gradual force to guide teeth to their proper position, but without brackets and metal wires.
Aligners are made of a strong plastic material which makes them virtually invisible. They are custom-fit to the patient’s mouth and are changed every three weeks to have the desired effect. The total length of treatment is specific to each patient and could be anywhere from three weeks to six months.
Advantages of orthodontic treatment with aligners:
Once the teeth are in their right positions due to orthodontic therapy, devices called retainers help preserve and stabilize them long enough to permit the reorganization and strengthening of the teeth’s supporting structures. If the retainer is not worn for the amount of time suggested by the dentist, there is a possibility for the teeth to move back to their previous misaligned position.