Braces can seem intimidating whether you’re an adult or child, but orthodontic devices can be a permanent path to a healthy smile.
Studies have shown that more than 4 million Americans wear braces, and 25 percent of them are adults. While braces can improve your smile, a misaligned jaw or out-of-place teeth can lead to serious health complications.
The American Association of Orthodontists estimates that between 50 and 75 percent of the population, in general, could benefit from some form of orthodontic treatment. Very few of us are born with perfectly aligned teeth and jaws. Even those who were may suffer trauma that may require orthodontic care or may experience maturational changes, such as the crowding of lower bottom teeth. Orthodontic treatment is performed to help a patient develop a healthy bite.
A healthy bite means that the top teeth and bottom teeth meet each other properly. Getting a healthy bite may require only moving teeth, but often it requires alignment of jaws. A healthy bite allows an individual to have a good function when biting, chewing, and speaking.
Orthodontic treatment also contributes to oral health and overall physical health. Left untreated, improperly aligned teeth (malocclusions) and jaws can wear down tooth enamel and lead to dental problems including cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss. Improperly aligned teeth are a breeding ground for plaque and bacteria, and crooked and crowded teeth make daily oral hygiene difficult. Properly aligned teeth are easier to clean and maintain.
Braces aren’t just for children. Adults are turning to orthodontists more than ever to correct their smiles, whether it’s a first time or for a tune-up.
Braces are simply one type of appliance — the formal name for a device used to move teeth, guide jaw growth or hold teeth in new positions — used in orthodontic treatment. The changes in orthodontic technology in the last several years are staggering. Orthodontic appliances today are generally less visible and work faster than appliances of a generation ago.
Braces are basically brackets and wires. Brackets are much smaller than they once were, and are glued to the fronts of teeth (called “direct bonding”) rather than the old way of encircling each tooth with a metal band, soldering the bracket to the band, and tying the archwire to the band with thin, fine wires. Besides being smaller, today’s brackets can be made of a variety of materials: stainless steel, tooth-colored ceramic or gold-plated metal.
The wires are the component of braces that do the work of moving teeth. They have improved, too. Wires keep their strength a longer time. They apply a continuous, gentle force on teeth to move them. Because wires last longer, fewer visits to the orthodontist are necessary.
Braces fall into the “fixed” appliance category and are the most common appliance used to move teeth. Generally, standard stainless steel braces give the orthodontist the greatest amount of control to move a patient’s teeth.
Brackets can be placed behind the teeth (called lingual treatment — an option for more than 25 years, but improvements in the brackets and wires used make this form of treatment more comfortable for patients than it used to be).
One way wearers can individualize their look is with the tiny rubber bands called ligatures. Many young patients enjoy choosing from a rainbow of colors to match clothing, school colors or favorite sports teams colors. Adults often select clear or lightly colored ligatures that draw less attention to braces.
Another option is self-ligating brackets made of stainless steel or ceramic to hold the wire in place. Patients who choose ceramic brackets may also be able to use tooth-colored wires that now have longer staying power and don’t stretch out and lose their strength.
In addition to braces, a variety of other fixed appliances include palate expanders to widen the upper jaw, permanent retainers to hold teeth in place and appliances to control tongue thrusting (when the tongue repeatedly pushes against teeth, it can move the teeth out of place and cause the bone that holds teeth to be misshapen).
Clear aligners, which are made by at least seven companies, were introduced in 1999 by Align Technology/Invisalign.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first check-up with an orthodontist at the first recognition of an orthodontic problem, but no later than age 7.
We look forward to speaking with you about any or all of the treatment plans that we offer. They are sure to find the best fit for you and your family. Call for your Complimentary Consultation Today!