A healthy, functional and attractive smile requires teeth that are straight and jaws that are well aligned. A good bite with teeth that are straight not only looks good, it contributes to overall oral health and well being.
Braces are orthodontic devices that are used to address problems such as crooked, gapped or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites and improper jaw relationships. With advances in orthodontic technology and systems of care, a wide selection of braces is available today. Providing effective and efficient care, these choices are far less bulky, much less noticeable, and more comfortable than previous generations of braces.
The type of braces the dentist recommends for a patient’s case depends on several factors including:
The most common type of braces worn today, remain “metal braces”. Made of high-grade stainless steel these braces are significantly smaller and have a lower profile than their predecessors from years ago. Each brace, which is known as an orthodontic bracket, is individually bonded to the front of each tooth. Metal braces allow for efficient and highly controllable tooth movement.
When conventional braces offer the best approach to care, but a more cosmetic appearance is desired, ceramic braces provide an excellent alternative to traditional metal brackets. Ceramic braces, or clear braces, blend in with the natural color of your teeth, making it less obvious to others that you are wearing orthodontic appliances. While being far less visible, they still function in very much the same way as metal braces.
Today, there are even metal braces that can be placed on the “tongue side” or lingual of every tooth, so that they are in effect completely hidden from the outside world. These braces work in the same way as the metal or ceramic braces affixed to the front of the teeth, but can be more uncomfortable and more difficult to keep clean due to where they are located.
One of the most recent options in orthodontic treatment that has provided a more discreet, convenient and comfortable method of care is a custom sequence of removable clear aligners that gradually move the teeth into their correct positions.
Most problems involving the alignment of your child’s teeth and the growth of their jaws can be identified by the time they are in the first or second grade. That is why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children have a check up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. At this visit the orthodontist will carefully examine your child’s bite and assess the alignment and development of the teeth. The orthodontist will also look at the growth and relationships of the jaws, and in particular check for any shifts or dysfunction. It will also be determined if any premature tooth loss, habits, swallowing or breathing patterns are having an effect on your child’s occlusion.
Following this visit the orthodontist will indicate if any immediate preventative or interceptive orthodontic care is needed. In many circumstances no treatment is required right away and the child can be observed until it is the appropriate time for care. Your child’s dental development as well as their prospective facial growth will be carefully considered in outlining the best timetable for care.
Orthodontic treatment for children typically begins between the ages of 9 and 14. At this time they are generally in the mid to late mixed dentition stage. This means they have a mix of permanent front teeth, permanent molars, and some baby teeth. The benefit of placing braces at this stage is that the orthodontist can improve the alignment of permanent front teeth, guide the incoming new adult teeth into position, and utilize the child’s growth and development to best advantage.
Often habits such as prolonged thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and certain swallowing or breathing patterns that can open or distort the bite are better dealt with when care is initiated at a younger age. Early treatment is also helpful when the top jaw is too narrow, not developing in harmony with the lower jaw, or if permanent top teeth are behind the lower ones when closing the jaws. Likewise, if a young child’s front teeth protrude excessively or very severe crowding is present a first phase of orthodontic care can be beneficial.
The objectives of early treatment and a first phase of orthodontic care are to influence jaw growth, create more space for crowded teeth, help to correct harmful habits, and improve facial aesthetics. With early treatment the likelihood of impacted permanent teeth as well as the need for extractions of permanent teeth can be lessened. Early treatment can also simplify the next phase of orthodontic care.