Orthodontics is an area of expertise of dentistry which concerns diagnosis, prevention and treatment of defects and abnormalities of occlusion. During the treatment the specialist aims to achieve an outcome that is closely aligned to the ideal occlusion. Miracles making is not possible and not every patient can have a Hollywood smile, however the capabilities of modern orthodontics are really impressive. Orthodontics patients are mainly young people. More often however adults also decide to undergo orthodontic treatment.
There are different types of braces: flexible, which can be put in for the day or night and fixed braces, which are fixed in place for the entire time of the treatment.
Orthodontic treatment usually begins when a child reaches the age of 5. Children aged 6-7 who still have milk teeth that are in the process of changing into permanent adult teeth are given flexible braces. Treatment started at this time usually yield very good results. However if it is not possible to straighten all the abnormalities at this point, then when the patient has adult teeth around the age of 12-13, fixed orthodontic braces are used. Patients can choose from metal, ceramic or plastic braces or hidden behind the teeth – lingual technique. Treatment using fixed braces usually lasts 1.5 - 2 years. It often requires the removal of one or more teeth in order to achieve the optimal occlusion conditions for the patient.
The treatment starts with a comprehensive interview and a dental examination. The orthodontist thoroughly examines patient’s current dental occlusion. Photographs of the patient’s facial profile are taken, as due to nature of the treatment will often visibly change. Gypsum impressions are used to build plaster moulds, necessary for measuring, analysing and to plan the treatment. The dentist also takes x-rays: pantomographic and cephalometric taken from the side. The x-rays enable the orthodontist to assess the roots and tooth buds.
In the following stage the patient is presented with the most likely course of treatment and its phases. It is then possible to install the braces and start the treatment.
Treatment with fixed braces usually leads to a significant and easily noticeable result. Equally important is that the treatment also improves the occlusion structure. With the correct occlusion structure, the patient is likely to avoid many health related problems in future. Without treatment orthodontic problems can lead to tooth decay, gum problems, bones problems and as a result of incorrect chewing, lead to digestion problems. Poor dental occlusion may contribute towards phonetic problems, loss or damage to teeth, and other serious dental diseases.
There are a number of symptoms which may indicate a problem. Relatively early consultations with a specialist allow diagnosis of the problem early enough to make the treatment shorter, less disruptive and more affordable. Parents should look out for the following symptoms:
- Early or late loss of milk teeth as a child,
- Problems with chewing and biting,
- Breathing through the mouth,
- Sucking a thumb,
- Sucking a finger,
- Incorrect location or obstruction of a tooth,
- Jaws which undergo movement during speech or eating; or noise from the jaw,
- Biting of the cheek or upper side of the lips,
- Teeth which overlap each other or large gaps between teeth,
- Jaws or teeth which do not look proportional compared to the child’s face.