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Five ways an orthodontist could help you and your children

Orthodontists are specially-trained dentists who can give you a better smile.

They do this by bringing the teeth, jaw bones and facial profile into proper alignment.

Here are five ways they could help you or your family:

– Straightening your teeth to cut the risk of decay and gum disease

– Enhancing your appearance to boost your self-esteem

– Correcting protruding or misaligned teeth to get rid of speech problems

– Treating jaw joint difficulties known as TMJ

– Correcting jaw problems

An orthodontist will give you a full oral examination looking not just at the teeth but also at surrounding structures, jaw joints, facial aesthetics, muscular functions and speech patterns.

There are several options after this examination.

Sometimes – for example in younger children – it is too soon to do anything so they might advise coming back in a few months.

As the majority of a child’s facial growth happens before age 10, early treatment can deliver results without needing to have teeth extracted and may mean less time with braces.

When most of the adult teeth have erupted, it is possible to re-align the teeth into the desired position.

Although you get the best results by going to see an orthodontist as early as possible they can help people of any age.

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Why Straighten Your Teeth?

If you don’t have straight teeth, you might wonder if you need to do anything about it.

Straight teeth have psychological and physiological benefits.

Straight teeth can help you bite, chew and speak better. They also contribute to healthy teeth and gums.

Properly aligned teeth and jaws may also alleviate or prevent physical health problems.

Having straight teeth enhances your smile and makes you look better.

An attractive smile enhances your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-image.

Orthodontic treatment can improve your appearance by bringing teeth, lips and face into proportion.

It can therefore be a step towards greater social and career success and can help you enjoy life more.

Straight teeth therefore work better and make you look better.

People with beautiful smiles therefore have a lot to be happy about.

The Pros and Cons of Hidden Braces

While regular metal braces with an arch wire and elastics are still the most common, some people opt for a different approach.

One option is lingual or “hidden” braces which are fixed to the inside of the teeth.

They still use brackets and wires, but those brackets and wires cannot generally be seen by others.

Rather than having brackets bonded to the teeth and wires attached with elastic, lingual braces have brackets built for each tooth.

The brackets are fixed to each tooth with cement and then the arch wire is threaded through the brackets.

Pros of Lingual Braces
They look better than regular braces
They work as effectively as regular braces
Food caught in them is not usually visible to others
May be more stable than other options

Cons of Lingual Braces
They can take longer to get used to
The way you talk may be affected, especially at first
Caring for them is more difficult
Cleaning takes longer
They can be more expensive as they have to be custom made and installation is more complex

How Dental Retainers Work with Braces

Dental retainers are devices used to keep teeth in the desired position after braces are removed.

After braces are removed, it still takes some time for teeth to settle into the jawbone and the soft tissue.

Without appropriate action, they might drift back in to the original position.

Retainers can be fixed or removable.

Removable retainers can be taken off to eat or brush your teeth. You wear them all the time for about a year and then wear them only at night for a further period.

Fixed retainers are permanently glued to your teeth and can only be removed by your dentist.

The most common type is Hawley Retainers, which have a plastic base following the shape of your mouth.

This is connected to a wire that wraps around your teeth, keeping them in place.

Essix Retainers are made of clear plastic and some patients prefer them as they cannot be seen but they don’t last as long as Hawley retainers.

As well as keeping your teeth in position after wearing braces, retainers can also be used to correct other minor orthodontic problems that don’t require a full set of dental braces.

For example, they may be used to move just one tooth or correct a slight malocclusion.

Definitions of Orthodontic Terms

Here are definitions of some of the most common orthodontic terms.

Impressions: A mold of your teeth which is used to make a model of them

Panoramic x-ray: An x-ray made by a machine that rotates around your head to give a full picture of your teeth and jaws

Closed bite: Where the upper teeth cover the lower teeth on biting down

Crossbite: Where some upper teeth are inside the lower teeth on biting down

Crowding: Too many teeth in too small a space

Fixed Appliance: Cemented or bonded to the teeth

Lingual Appliances: Fixed to the inside of the teeth

Malocclusion: Poor positioning of your teeth

Class I: Bite is fine as top teeth line up with bottom teeth but teeth are crooked or crowded

Class II: Upper teeth stick out past lower teeth (also called an “overbite”)

Class III: Lower teeth stick out past upper teeth (also called an “underbite”)

Occlusion: The alignment and spacing of upper and lower teeth on biting down

Open Bite: Teeth do not close or come together in the front of your mouth

Proper Occlusion: All teeth are straight and top teeth line up with bottom teeth

Wax Bite: Bitemark left on wax to measure how well teeth are aligned

Common Questions About Braces

Here are the answers to some common questions about what it like to have braces

What is it like having braces?,
When you have braces, you will probably find your mouth sore for a few days. It can also be uncomfortable when the braces are tightened. However, most of the time you probably won’t even notice them.

Do braces hurt?
It can depend on which type you choose but usually modern braces will not hurt except for the first few days or when they are tightened.

While the manufacturers are always looking for ways to make them more comfortable, a little discomfort at the beginning is still common. You will be able to take some painkillers if necessary. The pain may be greater if you start orthodontic treatment when you are an adult.

Will it be embarrassing to wear braces?
Over 70% of teenagers wear braces and therefore most people have some experience of them so there is no need to feel embarrassed. If you start treatment when you are an adult, the proportion of people wearing braces is lower but you will still find most people supportive.

Will braces cause sores in my mouth?
Sometimes you might experience sores on your lips in the first few days. These can easily be rinsed in water or special solution and will usually heal within a week or so. You can also put wax on the braces to prevent the braces from rubbing and irritating the sore.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?
It varies a lot depending on exactly what changes need to happen in your mouth. When started young it may last a few months. From the age of 12, it can take a year or two and perhaps more for adults. However it depends very much on your personal situation and your orthodontists will be able to advise you.

What are Braces and How do They Work?

Braces are devices which are used to straighten teeth, correct bite problems and fix irregular teeth.

They are made of three basic parts:
– Brackets
– Bonding (or band)
– Arch wire

The bonding is used to fix the brackets to the teeth.

The arch wire goes through the brackets and is held in place with small rubber bands.

The brackets and arch wire work together to move the teeth into new positions to straighten the teeth.

The arch wire works by putting pressure on the brackets to help move the teeth into the desired new position.

When pressure is applied to your teeth like this, they loosen slightly from the gums. Bone grows in to support the tooth in its new position but this takes time so the process needs to be done slowly.

That’s why you may have to wear braces for about two years and adjustments are only made every few weeks.

The arch wires work because they want to keep their original shape and will exert a great deal of pressure to do this. It is the combination of this aim of the arch wire and the person’s body heat that puts pressure on the teeth.

Braces are not always enough on their own to complete the task so the orthodontist may also use rubber bands or other devices to help pull the teeth in the correct direction.

After you have finished with the braces, you may need to wear a Retainer for a few months to hold the teeth in position until the bone has fully grown into place.