Dr Oh Xue Ling BDS (Adelaide)
What is Orthodontic Treatment and Do I Need It?
A nice smile makes a good first impression. For that reason, there are many who would seek orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth in hopes of a beautiful smile. What is orthodontic treatment and do I need it?
What is orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment corrects misaligned teeth and improper bite relationships for a more functional and aesthetically pleasing look.
There are usually 2 main types of orthodontic treatment- fixed and removable appliances.
- Fixed appliances
Fixed appliances are bonded onto the teeth, such as the conventional braces.
There are also 2 different types of braces- metal brackets and ceramic (tooth coloured) brackets.
Photo showing metal brackets (left), and ceramic brackets (right).
- Removable appliances
Also known as aligners, removable appliances are less noticeable than braces and can be removed when eating or brushing teeth.
What are the reasons for orthodontic treatment?
There are many reasons for wanting to correct teeth, and it is best to consult with your dentist prior to starting any treatment. Below are some of the more common reasons for orthodontic treatments.
- Crowded teeth and teeth with excessive spacing
The most common reason patients have is to correct crooked or unevenly spaced teeth, in hopes for a better appearance. A beautiful smile can play an important role in increasing self-confidence and psychological health.
- Ease of cleaning
Crowded teeth that overlap each other can make cleaning difficult; likewise, teeth with spacing in between them can easily trap food. All these can increase the risk of dental decay and gum diseases. Good alignment of teeth makes it easier to clean and maintain.
- Affecting speech and chewing functions
For more severe misalignment of the teeth and jaw, it can affect the ability to chew properly. For instance, protruding upper front teeth that do not meet the lower teeth result in the inability to bite using the front teeth (think about not being able to cut your noodles into shorter lengths!).
Speech can also be affected by the position of teeth. The teeth, tongue, and lips all play a role in producing speech by altering the airflow. Improper position of the teeth can result in a lisp or difficulty in pronouncing certain consonants such as ‘s’, ‘th’, ‘z.
- Damage to gums
In some cases of malocclusion, there may be damage to gums. For instance, in cases of deep bite, where the upper front tooth completely or almost completely overlaps the bottom front tooth, the gums can become injured.
When is the best time for orthodontic treatment?
Many patients have the misconception that orthodontic treatment can only be done when you are a child. Early treatment has its benefits as it is easier to move teeth and has some potential in correcting jaw misalignments if treatment is done before puberty is completed.
However, orthodontic treatment for adults can also be successful as the process of moving teeth remains the same (albeit with a longer time). The length of treatment varies from person to person, and your dentist will be able to give you a gauge on approximately how long your treatment will be after a thorough assessment of your teeth.