Orthodontics and Dental Health
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with the proper positioning of jaws and teeth. Although straight teeth improve appearance, there is much more to orthodontics than a pleasing smile. Orthodontics (meaning “straight teeth”) integrates with facial orthopedics, which is the branch of medical science concerned with bones, muscles and supporting tissues. Certainly, appearance is one very important reason to undergo orthodontic treatment. Since our self-concept is closely tied to our facial proportions, straight teeth do positively affect our self-esteem. Orthodontics impacts our overall health and well-being as well. Misaligned and crowded teeth can cause decay, infection, gum disease, loose teeth and jaw posture misalignment. The potential problems go beyond the mouth. An uneven bite can cause related health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, ear symptoms, neck discomfort and Temporomandibular jaw joint (TMJ) disorders. Many of us do not realize the importance of a stable bite. When the upper and lower teeth close, they should fit together comfortably like the gears of a machine. When your bite is uneven, the muscles and jaw joint components must compensate. In these cases the chewing muscles have to work harder and inappropriately to bring the teeth together. Muscles fatigue and become tired and strained, eventually becoming quite uncomfortable. This can cause problems in your face and jaw region, neck, head and ears. Orthodontics is concerned not only with the teeth, but also with the jaw bones, the Temporomandibular jaw joints (TMJs), supportive ligaments and the chewing muscles. The aim of orthodontic correction is to establish a correct, solid bite that is in harmony with the jaw muscles and head-neck posture.
Functional orthodontics is a form of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Technically speaking, these problems are classified as “malocclusion,” or having a bad bite. The use of functional appliances is one of the newer developments in orthodontics. They are used to bring teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment and to achieve facial balance, TMJ stabilization and an open airway.
In many cases, functional appliances can even be used to alter the growth of the jawbone itself. Soft memory wires gently and effectively move the teeth. These appliances work with the muscles, tissues and surrounding structures to correct a variety of conditions. Because living bone tissue is constantly being repaired and regenerated throughout life, there is no age limit for orthodontics.
Orthodontic correction is an excellent way to correct a bad bite, while maintaining and optimizing your natural teeth. We use the Damon orthodontic system in our office. These are passive self-ligating braces that eliminate the need for elastic or metal “ties” and utilize high-technology wires that move teeth faster and require fewer adjustments.
With the Damon system, treatment time is typically shorter than with conventional braces and the days of having braces tightened are over. Damon System braces have a unique slide mechanism that reduces pressure on your teeth and allows them to move more comfortably to their correct positions. This revolutionary new approach to orthodontics ensures greater comfort throughout treatment.
The advantages include:
- Significantly reduced treatment time
- Significantly fewer appointments
- Higher-quality results
Q&A About Early Treatment
- Why is “early treatment” recommended for some children?
In some cases, preventive or interceptive care can guide the jaws and erupting teeth into more favorable positions, improve the growth and alignment of the jaws, preserve space for the permanent teeth and/or reduce the likelihood of fracturing protruded front teeth.
- Why is the adolescent growth spurt so important in orthodontics?
This is a time when much of the growth of the face occurs. Treatment during this period provides an opportunity to favorably influence the facial profile in a growing child. Once growth of the facial bones is complete, correction of jaw discrepancies may require surgery. For this reason, early treatment may save considerable time and money.
- What are some of the conditions that suggest I should consider early orthodontics treatment?
At-risk conditions include:
- Crowded teeth
- Impacted teeth
- Spaced teeth
- Harmful habits
- Missing teeth
- Deep overbite
- Midline discrepancy
- Protruded teeth
- Retruded teeth
- Facial growth problems
- A ‘sunken’ facial profile
When all is said and done, a pretty smile is just the tip of the iceberg…proper orthodontic care is about ensuring and maintaining healthy teeth throughout your life.
Interceptive Orthodontics and Facial Orthopedics
Simply stated, Interceptive Orthodontics means diagnosing and treating malocclusions (a misalignment or incorrect relation between the teeth of the two dental arches when they approach each other as the jaws close) as soon as they are detected. While, in the past, orthodontic treatment did not begin until around age 12-14, the American Academy of Orthodontics now says all children should have an orthodontic assessment no later than age 7. As parents and patients, you need to understand that with Interceptive Orthodontics, there is usually more than one phase of treatment.
Starting early and going through phases allows for the second phase (when all the permanent teeth are in place) to be shorter in duration, since the major corrections happened in the Interceptive Orthodontics phase. Sometimes, Interceptive Orthodontics is required to correct problems related to skeletal development. Other times, it is needed as a direct result of oral habits. Harmful habits such as tongue thrust and thumb sucking are best corrected early to prevent open bite and misshaped jaws.
Timely treatment of crowding may involve preserving or regaining space, and guiding the eruption of permanent teeth into favorable positions. Orthopedic forces can often be used to correct a cross bite, establish proper functioning of the teeth, improve facial profile and prevent the need for future surgery.
The benefits of Interceptive orthodontics include:
- Improve the smile/self-confidence
- Influence growth of the jaws in a positive manner
- Improve the width of the dental arches
- Reduce or eliminate the need to extract permanent teeth
- Reduce or eliminate the need for jaw surgery
- Lower the risk of injury to protruded front teeth
- Correct harmful oral habits
- Reduce appearance-consciousness during critical developmental years
- Simplify and shorten treatment time for full braces
- Increase the stability of final treatment results
- Reduce the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth
- Improve speech development
- Guide permanent teeth into more favorable positions
- Improve lip closure
- Preserve or gain space for erupting permanent teeth
- Reduce potential for damage to jaw joints
- Improve sleep with a more open airway
- Improve nasal patency
Our office is able to offer the clear aligners in certain cases for our orthodontic patients. Because we are acutely aware of TMJ disorders, it is important to carefully screen each of our patients for any underlying TMJ issues before we would recommend the aligners. Dr. Brown is certified with Invisalign, Clear Correct, and various aligner systems and can make the recommendation based on your needs. If you are a candidate for aligners, we will be able to scan your teeth on our digital system (no more putty impressions!) and present what the final case will look like in just a few days from now. It’s quite exciting to watch the video as your teeth become straighter every day! We even have techniques to accelerate the process and shorten the time in the aligners. This is an exciting field and using our office makes it safe and effective.
Q. Are there any new technology advancements I should know about?
A. There is an amazing new scanning device called Lythos that allows our doctors and assistants to be more precise which reduces treatment time! You’ve probably already heard of Invisalign. Clear aligners that are easy to wear and a great way to finish up your case.
Q. What are the typical phases of treatment?
A. Phase one is the first visit and is truly the most important phase. Here we will complete a thorough evaluation of the joint, bite, and teeth placement. Once the evaluation is complete, we will create a treatment plan to address your specific needs. At this time a design of the brackets is made. Phase two is the placement of the brackets. At this point patients can expect regular visits to start every 2 – 3 months. This can last as short as six months or as long as three years. Phase three is what we call ‘the finishing’. In this phase we remove the brackets and will finish with either Invisalign or a retainer.
Q. How long must I wear my braces?
A. Each patient is unique and therefore there is not one specific answer but typically the timeframe is from one to three years.