Orthodontics is a specialised field in dentistry where corrective work is done to the alignment of the teeth and the jaw. While many people may believe that orthodontic procedures are purely cosmetic, they are in fact an investment in the long-term health of your teeth and jaw.
The realignment of teeth so that the front and back teeth meet evenly and so that teeth are straightened are a central purpose of orthodontic treatment. While there is an obvious cosmetic outcome to the treatment, the objective is usually to prevent damage to any of the prominent teeth. If the teeth are not aligned it is probable that in time there will be wear and damage that would not occur if straightened and realigned.
Treatment is also used to help correct problems such as cleft palate and sleep apnoea although this is a little more unusual.
Types of treatment
Orthodontic treatment is most commonly applied using braces. The braces that most people are familiar with are made of metal and are fixed to the teeth for the duration of the treatment. They are glued down and connected with wire, which is checked at regular intervals.
There are however several other treatments available, such as non-fixed braces which can be placed in and removed from the mouth at will, in a similar way to dentures. These are usually moulded to the palate and designed to perform a particular task, such as retaining the teeth in position, while there is still some growth.
There are also removable plastic braces that attach to both the upper and lower teeth, designed to work together to provide the desired dental outcome. These are becoming more popular, especially amongst adult patients.
In the past orthodontic treatment was mostly associated with children, however, as the branch of specialised dentistry has progressed more treatment options for adults is now available. Orthodontics is used to help adults needing tooth realignment not only where it occurs naturally but also after accidents where teeth may have been moved within the jaw.
Teeth also move and migrate because of ageing and this is most visible along the bottom row.
Children are treated from around the age of twelve once most or all their adult teeth have emerged. Dental alignment problems that children face can be as a result of a number of issues. For some children, habitual thumb sucking or the use of dummies, where pressure was applied from behind the teeth is a common cause.
Situations arise where the teeth are impacted because of insufficient space in the jaw. This can cause both pain and severely irregular tooth alignment, which with the correct treatment can be resolved.
There are a lot of good reasons why you should consider orthodontic treatment. Apart from the cosmetic value, it really does make a difference to your long-term dental health preventing erosion, decay and expensive treatment later in old age.
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