The Complete Guide to Orthodontic Treatment

Jul 22 • 6 minute read

Orthodontics is a critical field of dentistry for both the beauty and health of the smile. Misaligned teeth create areas that are difficult to reach with your toothbrush, so tooth decay and gum disease are much more likely to develop. Teeth that are on aligned properly also present problems regarding biting and chewing food, which can negatively affect digestion.

While straighter, more visually appealing teeth are desirable, many people don’t realize the many health benefits that come with a properly aligned smile. Orthodontic treatment can lower the risk of developing TMJ disorders, abnormal wear, and even gum disease. Orthodontic treatment can realign your bite, prevent damage, and improve aesthetics. Some popular orthodontic options include:

  • Traditional Braces
  • Clear or Invisible Braces
  • Removable Appliances Like Invisalign®
  • Early Orthodontic Treatment

How Orthodontic Treatment Works

Orthodontic appliances can be made of plastic, ceramic, or metal, and can be fixed or removable. The devices provide gentle and constant pressure to move teeth and adjust jaw growth with precision. The treatment duration can be months or years depending on age, treatment method, and severity of misalignment.

When is the Optimal Time to Get Orthodontic Treatment?

Traditionally, braces treatment occurs in the teenage years. At this stage of development, permanent teeth have come in and are ready to be aligned for optimal dental function and appearance. While most kids don’t look forward to having braces, it’s much easier to complete orthodontic treatment during these years. However, new methods and technology have made treating misalignment easier and more effective for adults as well.

Correcting Misalignment with Traditional Braces

Traditional metal braces offer the most benefit for severe orthodontic issues. This method involves affixing metal brackets to each tooth using metal wiring and rubber bands to guide teeth into proper position. Wires and brackets offer better control, as each one can be adjusted for optimal results.

Some patients with milder malocclusion prefer this option over the clear aligner options, as they don’t have to worry about misplacing the removable trays. There are also variations of traditional braces that may better fit your lifestyle and your goals.

Self-Ligating Braces

This system uses a unique technology to get results more quickly than traditional braces. The wires are lighter and use shape-memory, so they don’t need tightening. With no elastics, ties, or palate expanders, this system reduces friction by using a sliding mechanism.

The Damon system uses advanced computer imaging to capture essential details for planning your treatment. The small brackets reduce plaque build-up and make home hygiene easier, which will reduce the risk of decay during the treatment process.

Lingual Braces

This system can reduce treatment time to months rather than years. The primary twelve teeth seen when you smile are the only ones realigned with the use of self-ligating lingual braces. The appliances are attached to the teeth on the tongue side and are ideal for patients who require less than 6 mm of movement.  

The Convenience of Clear Aligners

Perhaps the most popular reason people choose Invisalign or other clear aligners is their aesthetic appeal. They are virtually invisible, and you can remove them for important events like weddings, anniversaries, or job interviews.

Clear aligners are also more comfortable and more convenient. The system uses a series of custom-designed trays that gradually shift teeth into uniform alignment. Every two weeks, you will wear a new set of aligners. If you wear the appliances for the recommended 22 hours a day, you can expect visible results in a year or less.

The ability to thoroughly brush and floss without any brackets or wires in the way helps you maintain the health of your teeth and gums. Additionally, you won’t need to restrict your diet.

Early Orthodontics for Children

Orthodontic treatment can help your child grow up with a healthy smile and optimal dental function. Early pediatric orthodontics catches problems early and prevents severe malocclusion. Issues like dental crowding, severely crooked teeth, or wide gaps between teeth can affect your child’s health, appearance, and confidence.

While many people only think of braces when they hear the term orthodontics, there are various treatments to help create the right shape and symmetry for your child’s smile. Pediatric orthodontics services can include:

  • Space Maintainers
  • Lower Lingual Arch Appliances
  • Mouth Guards and Night Guards
  • Retention Appliances
  • Corrective Jaw Surgery (Orthognathic Surgery)

Before treatment, you and your child should go in for a consultation and review all your treatment options. If you are worried that your child’s teeth are not developing correctly, your dentist can determine whether braces are necessary. A professional can also recommend treatments to reduce time spent in braces later. Orthodontic appliances may be used before, during, and following surgery to create the best possible outcome.

Preventing Damage to Your Braces

Avoid eating foods like apples that require a lot of front-facing biting and can damage the appliances. Below are five foods to avoid and seven foods to enjoy with traditional braces:

Foods to Avoid

  1. Chewy, starchy foods, such as hard rolls, licorice, and bagels
  2. Crunchy foods like chips, popcorn, and ice
  3. Sticky foods and treats, such as gum, caramel candy, and toffee
  4. Hard foods like nuts, taco shells, and seeds
  5. Foods that require biting into, such as apples, carrots, corn on the cob, and pizza crust

Foods to Enjoy

  1. Dairy foods like pudding, soft cheeses, and milk-based drinks
  2. Soft bread including flour tortillas, muffins without nuts, and pancakes
  3. Grains like soft-cooked pasta, quinoa, and rice
  4. Soft meats, poultry, and fish, including boiled chicken, meatballs, and lunch meats
  5. Vegetables such as steamed spinach, soft-cooked beans, and legumes
  6. Fruits including organic applesauce, bananas, and natural fruit juices
  7. Treats like ice cream and milkshakes, soft cake, and Jell-O (occasionally)

Orthodontic Emergency Care

Although orthodontic emergencies are rare, they can happen at any time. Most problems are the result of trauma due to accidents. The best way to prevent an orthodontic emergency is to wear a mouthguard during any physical activity and maintain an effective oral hygiene routine.

A real dental emergency involves trauma, infection, or severe pain, but other issues that require immediate care consist of managing discomfort or appliance repairs, including:

Loose & Poking Wires: As your teeth move into place, the wire joining them can come loose. If this happens, call your dentist and schedule a repair. Until you get to your appointment, cover the area with orthodontic wax.

Loose Brackets and Bands: Trying to connect elastics or adjust bands on your own can cause breakage. Leave the bracket or band in place and cover it with orthodontic wax to secure it. Call and schedule an appointment as soon as possible so your dentist can correctly repair your band or bracket.

Headgear: Discomfort from headgear can be caused by not wearing it as instructed or if the face bow gets bent out of alignment. Additionally, wearing your gear for the prescribed hours is very important because it will become more comfortable the longer it is worn. If it continues to cause pain or discomfort after wearing it for the set time, contact your dentist for a more in-depth evaluation.

Lost Retainers: If you’ve lost a retainer, it is essential to contact your dentist right away so they can take impressions and order your replacement. It is a good idea for young teens to order an additional set of retainers made ahead of time or look into getting a fixed retainer that is not removable.

Lost Invisalign Aligners: Keep all your previous sets of Invisalign aligners in case one goes missing. You can go back to wearing the last aligner until a new one made for you.

A Healthy Smile is a Beautiful Smile

Children, teens, and adults can achieve smiles that are visually appealing and healthier for being correctly aligned. If you or a family member have benefited from a specific orthodontic treatment, feel free to share!

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