What Is Orthodontics? Who And How Does It Benefit?

With orthodontic treatment becoming more and more affordable, comfortable, and popular with both children and adults, you may be hearing and seeing more about orthodontics in general. However, hearing and seeing doesn’t necessarily mean understanding! If you’ve ever wondered what exactly orthodontics is about, who it can benefit, and how it can help them, keep reading!

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on correcting teeth and jaws that are improperly positioned. This is a necessary part of dentistry for multiple reasons, due to crooked teeth being

  • harder to clean
  • lost early due to tooth decay
  • more prone to periodontal disease
  • stressful on the chewing muscles, which can then lead to headaches, TMJ syndrome, and neck/shoulder/back pain.

A dentist who specializes in this field is called an orthodontist. Orthodontists receive an extra two or more years of education beyond their four years in dental school. This must be in an ADA-approved orthodontic training program.

The benefits of orthodontic treatment can include a healthier mouth, a more pleasing appearance, increased self-confidence, and improved teeth that are more likely to last a lifetime.

How do you know if orthodontics are for you?

Only your dentist or orthodontist will be able to determine if you would benefit from orthodontics. Using diagnostic tools that include

  • a full medical and dental health history
  • a clinical exam
  • plaster models of your teeth
  • special X-rays and photographs

an experienced orthodontist can decide whether orthodontics are recommended, and then develop a customized treatment plan that’s just right for you.

Some common dental issues that often benefit from orthodontic treatment are:

  • Overbite: sometimes referred to as “buck teeth” — this is where the upper front teeth lie too far forward and stick out over the lower teeth
  • Underbite: a “bulldog” appearance where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth are too far back
  • Crossbite: when the upper teeth do not come down slightly in front of the lower teeth when biting together normally
  • Open bite: space between the biting surfaces of the front and/or side teeth when the back teeth bite together
  • Misplaced midline: when the center of your upper front teeth does not line up with the center of your lower front teeth
  • Spacing: gaps, or spaces, between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that don’t “fill up” the mouth
  • Crowding: when there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate

How does orthodontic treatment work?

There are many different types of orthodontic appliances, both fixed and removable, that can be used to help move the teeth, retrain the muscles, and affect the growth of the jaws. These generally work by placing gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws. The severity of your problem will be the determining factor in which orthodontic approach is likely to be the most effective.

Fixed appliances include:

  • Braces: by far the most common orthodontic appliance, braces consist of bands, wires, and brackets. Bands are fixed around the teeth and used as anchors, while brackets are most often bonded to the front of the tooth. Arch wires are then passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. Regular tightening of the arch wire puts tension on the teeth, gradually moving them to their proper position. Braces are usually adjusted monthly to bring about the desired results, which could take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Modern braces are smaller, lighter, and show far less metal than more outdated versions do. They can also come in bright colors for kids, as well as the clear styles like ceramic braces, which are preferred by many adults.
  • Fixed space maintainers:  if a baby tooth is lost prematurely, a customized space maintainer, or spacer, is used to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. This prevents the remaining teeth from crowding the empty space. A band is attached to the tooth next to the empty space, and a wire is extended to the tooth on the other side of the space.

Removable appliances include:

  • Aligners: Invisalign is the most popular alternative to traditional braces for teens and adults. These are used by an increasing number of orthodontists to move teeth in the same way that fixed appliances work, only without the hassle of metal wires and brackets. These aligners are virtually invisible and are easily removed for eating, brushing, and flossing.
  • Removable space maintainers: these devices serve essentially the same function as fixed space maintainers, but are made with an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, and have plastic or wire branches between specific teeth to keep the space between them open.
  • Jaw repositioning appliances: also called splints, these devices are worn on either the top or lowerjaw, and help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position.
  • Lip and cheek bumpers: these are designed to keep the lips or cheeks away from the teeth. Lip and cheek muscles can exert pressure on the teeth, and these bumpers help to relieve that pressure.
  • Palatal expander: A plastic plate that fits over the roof of the mouth, this device is used to widen the arch of the upper jaw. Outward pressure applied to the plate by screws then force the joints in the bones of the palate to open lengthwise, widening the palatal area.
  • Removable retainers: worn on the roof of the mouth after a course of orthodontic treatment has been completed, these devices prevent shifting of the teeth to their previous position.
  • Headgear: with this device, a strap is placed around the back of the head and attached to a metal wire in front. Headgear slows the growth of the upper jaw, and holds the back teeth where they are while the front teeth are pulled back.

Dallas/Fort Worth orthodontics with Dr. Shaw and the Shaw Orthodontics team

If you’re in the Dallas/Forth Worth area, and looking for further information on how orthodontics may benefit you or your child, get in touch today with our conveniently located Rockwall office by clicking here or calling 972.722.1500. We offer a complimentary consultation to new patients, and would love to work with you in helping you discover your very best smile!