The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children see an orthodontist by age seven and sooner if something is obviously wrong before age seven. Fortunately, many young patients don’t need anything more than observation while the permanent teeth are growing into place, however, some young patients may have problems that will not, or should not wait. Most orthodontic problems are inherited and cannot be totally prevented however something can usually be done before these problems become more difficult and more expensive to manage.
It is advisable to consult with an orthodontist prior to having your dentist remove any baby teeth or permanent teeth. To ensure the best overall dental and facial development all patients shaould have an orthodontic consultation sometime between the ages of three and seven. By age 7, the first permanent molars and incisors have usually come in and cross-bites, crowding and protrusions can be evaluated. The orthodontist can identify current or anticipated future dental problems and determine the best time for treatment. Any ongoing oral habits can also be evaluated at this time such as thumb sucking, mouth breathing, or finger sucking.
What are the benefits of early treatment?
If there are obvious problems which exist that could be intercepted or prevented from getting worse your orthodontist may advise you to have your child undergo a First stage-Orthopedic Treatment. Orthopedic treatment can be initiated on many types of bite problems before all of the permanent teeth are present. Orthopedic treatment is necessary in many cases when the child’s teeth, lips or jaws don’t look normal for their age. Some reasons from considering orthopedic treatment are to:
Minimize severe malocclusions
Improve facial appearance and self-esteem
Correct functional problems
Minimize the effects of abnormal growth patterns
Reduce protrusion so that front teeth are less susceptible to injury
Reduce the need for or minimize the number of permanent teeth extracted
Reduce a serious mismatch in the growth of the upper and lower jaws
Eliminate adverse habits such as thumb/finger sucking
Make the treatment with braces easier and shorter
What are some of the orthodontic appliances used in growth guidance?
Orthopedic treatment may involve expanding appliances, retainers, a limited number of braces or headgear. We will use whatever is best to help shape and widen the dental arches. A larger more appropriately shaped dental arch can mean more room for adult teeth coming into the mouth, as well as a more natural smile. Here are a few of the common appliances used today:
Herbst: The Herbst appliance can help correct severe protrusion of the upper teeth by holding the lower jaw forward. It is affixed to the upper and lower molar teeth by the orthodontist.
Palatal Expansion Appliance: This appliance can widen the upper jaw to allow more room for the upper teeth and create a broader smile. This is usually used on patients with a crossbite that occurs when the upper jaw is too narrow for the upper teeth to fit properly with the lower teeth.
Bionator: This removable appliance holds the lower jaw forward and guides the eruption of the teeth while helping the upper and lower jaws to grow in proportion with each other.
What is an orthodontic specialist?
An orthodontist is a specialist in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The practice of orthodontics involves the design, application and control of corrective appliances and braces which are used to treat and correct these problems so that optimum dental function and stability are achieved. An orthodontist is required to first attend college, then complete a four-year graduate dental program and finally complete an additional two-year orthodontic residency program. Only about 6% of dentists hold these qualifications. When deciding which orthodontist to choose, make sure they have these qualifications and are members of the American Association of Orthodontists.
What’s new in orthodontics?
Orthodontics has changed a lot in the past years. New technology is allowing orthodontists to produce better results with fewer visits and shorter overall treatment times. Technology such as nickel-titanium-alloy archwires, developed by NASA, have replaced the traditional stainless steel wires of the past, providing patients with a temperature-sensitive wire that allow for continuous movement of the teeth over longer periods of time. For patients this means enhanced comfort, decreased treatment time and less trips to the orthodontist.
Cosmetic advances are also being made in orthodontics making braces less visible and more comfortable than in the past. The brackets used in orthodontics today bond directly to the teeth and are much smaller and more comfortable than those of old. If you are looking for braces that don’t show, you may want to consider Lingual orthodontics. Lingual orthodontists use brackets that are custom-made and fit behind each tooth. You may also want to consider asking about the new tooth colored brackets now available.
A new technology that allows tooth alignment without braces has been recently introduced to the orthodontic community. It is called InvisAlign™. For decades, traditional braces had been the only option for adults who wanted straighter teeth. The Invisalign System™ offers the first true alternative, by utilizing advances in 3-D imaging technology to create a series of customized plastic aligners. It all begins with a visit to an InvisAlign™-certified orthodontist, who will help you determine what you’d like to correct. Next, the orthodontist sends InvisAlign™ your precise treatment instructions. InvisAlign™ then uses its proprietary computer technology to create a sequence of finely-calibrated clear plastic aligners-as few as 12 or as many as 48, depending on your particular case. You’ll wear each aligner for about two weeks, removing them only to eat, brush, and floss. As you replace each aligner with the next, your teeth will move-little by little, week by week-until they reach the final alignment your orthodontist has prescribed.
To date, it has been used primarily on adults for minor alignment procedures and is not yet effective for more severe cases requiring extensive jaw movement. To find our more about this procedure ask your orthodontist or click on one of the links below.
For more information on orthodontics, check out these links:
Expect more clinical advances to be made in orthodontics as technology allows orthodontists to straighten teeth with fewer visits, shorter treatment times, more comfort, and less visible procedures.