Getting the Straight Facts: Orthodontics

Orthodontics is a separate branch of dentistry that involves the correction or the alignment of your teeth and jaws. Whether you have crooked teeth, or misaligned jaws that affect your bite, orthodontic treatment can help relieve problems that can occur with these dental issues, including:

  • Overbite – An overbite is where your front, upper teeth stick out past the bottom teeth.
  • Underbite – Underbites occur when your front, lower teeth stick out past the upper teeth.
  • Crowding – Crowding is where your teeth occupy more dental ridge space in the gums than available.
  • Spacing – Spacing is the opposite of crowding, in which your teeth contain gaps or spaces in-between each other or do not sufficiently fill the dental ridge line.

These dental issues can easily affect your bite, or how you are able to chew food. An overbite or underbite, for example, can cause strain on your jaw and over time may even cause pain when you chew. Dental problems such as crowding or spacing can affect your overall dental health: When your teeth crowd, it can become difficult to effectively clean your teeth, which can lead to a build-up of plaque and later cavities. Spacing in your teeth leaves the gum areas that are not occupied by teeth more prone to infection if not properly cleaned. Crowding and spacing can also lead to issues in your bite.

Orthodontic Treatments

To resolve these dental issues and prevent further dental problems, dentists offer their patients multiple types of orthodontic treatments that can correct these issues early. Most orthodontic treatments involve the wearing of some sort of device that will gently and gradually adjust your teeth or jaw. Orthodontic appliances include:

  • Braces – These wires/brackets are attached to the teeth and slowly move them into a perfectly aligned position over time. Dentists will continuously adjust the braces over time as your teeth shift into place.
  • Aligners – Aligners, often clear, are worn similarly to mouth guards, in which they are worn snugly and comfortably over the teeth.
  • Retainers – Retainers, often worn after receiving orthodontic treatment from braces or aligners, are worn in the top of the mouth, and are made to prevent newly straightened teeth from going back to their previous positions.
  • Spacers – Space maintainers provide branches in-between chosen teeth in order to maintain or keep the space open.
  • Expanders – While spacers are used primarily for teeth, expanders are made for the jaw. A palatal expander is worn on the roof of the mouth and is used to widen the area, resulting in a wider arch in the upper jaw.
  • Headgear – This device is worn around your head, rather than just your mouth. A headgear is worn by strapping the device around the back of the head and attaches to your teeth with a metal wire. Headgear is meant to slow the growth of the upper jaw.