Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on treating misaligned or crooked teeth and jaws. While the main goal of orthodontic treatment is to improve the appearance of one’s smile, it also plays a crucial role in maintaining overall dental health.
Your oral health and overall health are closely connected. In fact, research has shown that poor oral health can lead to various systemic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it’s important to take care of your teeth not just for aesthetic purposes but also for the sake of your overall well-being.
What Is Orthodontic Treatment?
Orthodontic treatment involves using appliances such as braces or aligners to move teeth into their correct position gradually. The length of treatment can vary depending on the severity of the patient’s case, but it typically lasts anywhere from 8 to 36 months.
Typically all permanent teeth should have erupted before starting comprehensive orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign. This usually happens by the age of 12 or 13. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Early orthodontic intervention, also known as Phase 1 or interceptive treatment, can be beneficial in some cases for younger children (around the ages of 6-10) who have not yet lost all of their baby teeth. This type of treatment can address issues such as severe crowding, crossbites, underbites, or harmful habits like thumb-sucking. The goal is to correct existing problems and potentially simplify or shorten the duration of future orthodontic treatment.
What Are the Dental Issues That Orthodontic Treatment Can Address?
Orthodontic treatment can address a wide range of dental issues, including:
- Crowding: This is when there isn’t enough space in the mouth for all the teeth to fit properly. Crowded teeth can be difficult to clean effectively, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Spacing: This occurs when there’s too much space between the teeth, often due to missing teeth or teeth that are smaller than average.
- Overbite: This type of bad bite is when the upper front teeth overlap significantly with the lower front teeth. It can cause wear on the lower teeth and may lead to injuries in sports and other activities.
- Underbite: An underbite is when the lower teeth and jaw protrude in front of the upper teeth. It can cause difficulty in chewing and speaking.
- Crossbite: This happens when the upper teeth close inside the lower teeth, which can lead to uneven tooth wear and asymmetrical jaw growth.
- Open Bite: An open bite is when the upper and lower front teeth don’t overlap when the mouth is closed. This condition can impact speech and make biting and chewing difficult.
- Protrusion: Protrusion of the teeth, also known as “buck teeth,” refers to the upper front teeth that stick out. This not only affects a person’s appearance but also increases the risk of tooth damage.
- Impacted Teeth: Sometimes, teeth fail to emerge from the gums at the right time — they’re either too early or too late. These impacted teeth can be guided into the correct position through orthodontic treatment.
Why Is Orthodontic Health Important?
Having straight and properly aligned teeth not only improves your smile but also has a significant impact on your oral health. Here are some reasons why orthodontic treatment is crucial for maintaining teeth health:
Improved Oral and Overall Health
Misaligned teeth can lead to various oral health issues, including plaque, tooth decay, gum disease, and enamel wear because they are harder to clean properly. Orthodontic treatment can correct these misalignments, making it easier to maintain good oral hygiene.
If dental problems are left untreated, they can lead to or be associated with many medical issues. Here are some examples:
Heart Disease: There is some evidence to suggest that chronic oral infections, such as periodontitis (gum disease), can lead to heart disease and stroke. The theory is that inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels, which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Endocarditis: This is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
Diabetes: Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among those who have diabetes. Research shows that people with gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
Pregnancy Complications: Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
Pneumonia: Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
Alzheimer’s Disease: Some research suggests that poor oral health is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Osteoporosis: The bone loss associated with osteoporosis may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation. However, more research is needed to understand whether treating osteoporosis could also prevent gum disease.
Keep in mind that while these associations exist, more research is needed to fully understand the links between oral health and overall health. Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene can help prevent most dental problems.
Corrects Bite Problems
Orthodontics can correct malocclusions (bite problems), such as overbite, underbite, crossbite, and open bite. These conditions can cause difficulty in chewing and speaking, excessive wear on certain teeth, and an increased risk of injury to protruding teeth.
Prevents Jaw Issues
Misaligned teeth and bite problems can put extra stress on the jaw muscles and joints, potentially leading to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, chronic jaw pain, and headaches. TMJ treatment can help alleviate these issues.
Enhances Appearance and Self-Esteem
Crooked or crowded teeth can affect a person’s self-confidence. By improving the alignment and appearance of the teeth, orthodontics can boost self-esteem and overall quality of life.
Facilitates Other Dental Treatments
For some individuals, orthodontic treatment may be a necessary step before other dental procedures like implants, bridges, or cosmetic dentistry.
What Are the Orthodontic Treatment Procedures Available?
Various orthodontic treatment options are available, depending on the severity of your case and personal preference. The most common procedures include:
1. Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional metal braces use stainless steel brackets and wires to move teeth into their correct position. These orthodontic appliances are the most cost-effective option and are suitable for all types of orthodontic cases.
Metal braces consist of the following components:
Brackets: These are small squares that are bonded directly to the front of each tooth with a special dental bonding agent or are attached to orthodontic bands.
Orthodontic Bands: These wrap around each tooth to provide an anchor for the brackets. Not all patients need bands; it depends on the treatment plan.
Archwire: This is a thin metal wire that runs from bracket to bracket and applies pressure to the teeth, guiding them into place.
Elastic Bands: These are tiny rubber bands that hold the archwire onto the brackets.
Spacers or Separators: These may be placed between teeth to create a small space before the placement of orthodontic bands.
The duration of treatment with traditional metal braces varies greatly depending on the individual patient’s needs. On average, most people wear braces for about 18 to 24 months. However, in mild cases, treatment may only take a few months, while more complex cases may require three years or more of treatment. Following the removal of braces, most patients will need to wear a retainer to prevent the teeth from shifting back to their original position.
Factors that influence the duration of treatment include the severity of the issue, the patient’s age, and how well they follow the orthodontist’s instructions. For example, maintaining good oral hygiene and attending all scheduled appointments can help ensure the treatment stays on track.
2. Ceramic Braces
Ceramic braces are similar to metal braces but use clear or tooth-colored brackets, making them less noticeable. They are an excellent option for those concerned about the appearance of traditional metal braces.
3. Lingual Braces
Lingual braces work the same way as traditional metal braces, but the brackets and wires are placed on the back or lingual side of the teeth. They are completely hidden from view and an excellent option for those who want discreet treatment.
Invisalign is a popular alternative to traditional braces that uses a series of clear aligners to achieve straight teeth. They are virtually invisible, removable, and comfortable to wear.
Invisalign is a popular alternative to traditional braces that uses a series of clear aligners to gradually move teeth into the correct position. They are virtually invisible, removable, and comfortable to wear. This treatment involves wearing your Invisalign aligners at least 20 to 22 hours per day. Every two weeks, you will switch to a new set of aligners that have been specifically designed for your teeth.
Invisalign offers several benefits over traditional metal braces:
Easier to Clean: Unlike traditional braces, which can be difficult to clean around, Invisalign aligners can be removed for easy cleaning.
Fewer Office Visits: Invisalign often requires fewer office visits than traditional braces, making it a more convenient option for many patients.
No Food Adjustments: With traditional braces, certain foods can interfere with the braces or become stuck in them. Invisalign aligners can be removed during meals, so there are no dietary restrictions.
Aesthetically Pleasing: Invisalign aligners are virtually invisible, making them a more discreet option than metal braces.
Comfort: Invisalign aligners are made from smooth plastic, which can be more comfortable than the sharp metal used in traditional braces.
Effective: As Invisalign technology has advanced, it’s become effective at treating almost all orthodontic cases that traditional braces can handle.
However, it’s important to note that traditional braces can sometimes achieve better results than Invisalign, especially in complex cases. Traditional braces have more force to move teeth into the desired position, which can make them a better choice for certain patients.
Dentures are removable appliances that replace missing teeth and surrounding tissues. They’re made from acrylic resin, sometimes combined with metal attachments. There are two main types of dentures: complete dentures and partial dentures.
- Complete Dentures: They are used when all the teeth are missing. They can be “conventional” or “immediate.” A conventional denture is ready for placement in the mouth about 8 to 12 weeks after removing the remaining teeth. An immediate denture is prepared in advance and can be positioned as soon as the teeth are removed.
- Partial Dentures: These dental devices are used when some natural teeth still remain. They not only fill in the spaces created by missing teeth but also prevent other teeth from changing position.
What Are the Risks of Not Having Orthodontic Treatment?
Not having orthodontic treatment when necessary can lead to a variety of risks and complications:
- Increased Risk of Dental Problems: Misaligned teeth can cause difficulty maintaining proper oral hygiene, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Excessive Wear and Tear: Certain teeth may experience excessive wear and tear due to an improper bite or malocclusions like underbites and overbites.
- Speech and Chewing Difficulties: Malocclusions can affect speech and make chewing difficult, which may, in turn, impact digestion.
- Jaw Pain and Tension: An improper bite can lead to jaw tension and chronic pain and, in severe cases, may require jaw surgery.
- Aesthetic Concerns: Crooked, crowded, or protruding teeth can affect a person’s appearance and self-esteem.
- Potential for Worsened Malocclusion: In some cases, partially completed or discontinued orthodontic treatment can result in a worse malocclusion than the original condition.
- Risk of Decalcification and Other Dental Diseases: Neglected orthodontic treatment can lead to decalcification (permanent white marking of the enamel), decay, or gum disease.
It’s important to note that while orthodontic treatment has its own potential adverse effects, such as root resorption, pain, pulpal changes, and periodontal disease, these are typically manageable under the care of a professional orthodontist and are outweighed by the benefits of treatment.
Achieve Straighter Teeth and Excellent Oral Health With Orthodontic Treatment at Shoreline Dental Care
Teeth health and overall health are interlinked, and it’s essential to have a healthy mouth for optimal well-being. Orthodontic treatment is important to your overall health as it not only helps straighten your teeth but also addresses a range of oral health issues. This helps prevent more severe dental problems in the future and improves your overall health.
Check out our other informational blog posts to learn more about teeth and overall health. If you’re considering orthodontic treatment, we encourage you to schedule an initial consultation with one of our dentists. Shoreline Dental Care offers a range of orthodontic options, including traditional braces and Invisalign, to help you achieve a straighter and healthier smile. We are equipped with modern dental technology and advanced strategies to provide the best possible care.
Call us now to schedule your appointment and take the first step toward a beautiful smile, better oral health, and overall well-being!