What Role Orthodontics Plays in Achieving Dental Alignment and Health

What Role Orthodontics Plays in Achieving Dental Alignment and Health

Orthodontics is the specialized field of dentistry focused on diagnosing, preventing, and correcting malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and jaws. Using appliances like braces, orthodontic treatment improves the appearance of crooked, crowded, or gapped teeth and incorrect jaw position. Correcting bite issues can also prevent damage to the teeth and improve oral functions like chewing, speaking, and jaw joint movement. Orthodontic intervention is often indicated for optimal oral health.

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Most Common Orthodontic Issues

Common issues addressed by orthodontic treatment include crooked or crowded teeth, teeth erupting in the wrong position, extra or impacted teeth, crossbites causing incorrect bite alignment, overbites or underbites involving excessive vertical overlapping of the jaws, open bites, deep bites, and abnormal jaw growth patterns like over or under development of the maxilla and mandible. Genetic and environmental factors produce malocclusion.

Importance of Early Orthodontic Assessment

The American Association of Orthodontists and other major dental organizations recommend all children have an orthodontic evaluation by age 7. Early assessment between ages 7-10 allows diagnosing emerging bite problems and guiding growth and development through early intervention procedures. Early treatment often reduces the extent and complexity of braces needed later. Annual dental exams should include orthodontic check-ups.

Planning a Course of Orthodontic Treatment

A period of observation and planning follows diagnosis to track changes over months and determine optimal timing and approaches before formal treatment begins. Using photos, impressions, scans, and radiographs, the orthodontist creates a precise treatment plan. Factors include age, remaining facial growth, compliance, dental development stage, complexity, aesthetic goals, and patient motivation. Each case follows an individualized plan.

Types of Orthodontic Appliances and Treatment Phases

Common fixed braces involve bonded brackets with archwires that are periodically adjusted. Newer options include clear aligners and lingual braces attached to the tongue-facing teeth surface. Removable appliances can align some issues. Two phases of treatment often maximize results: initial correction of skeletal discrepancies followed by ideal alignment of dentition. Additional dental procedures may supplement orthodontics.

Importance of Retention After Braces

Once teeth are straightened, the bone surrounding their new positions needs time to stabilize or teeth may shift. Thus orthodontic treatment involves wearing retainers full-time for 6-12 months once braces are removed, then nightly during sleep for 1-3 years to hold alignments. Lifetime retention planning helps prevent regression. Consistent retainer wear preserves the results.

Reduced Risk of Dental Problems

Ideal dental alignment improves oral health. Crooked, crowded teeth are harder to clean thoroughly and prone to decay. Malocclusion or misalignment can lead to excessive wear, fractures, gum disease, and loss of teeth. Correcting malocclusion through orthodontics helps prevent these issues and the eventual dental restoration work needed. It optimizes long-term dental health.

Team-Based Orthodontic Care Approach

Orthodontists lead the treatment process but work in coordination with general dentists, oral surgeons, periodontists, pediatric dentists, and other dental specialists to provide comprehensive oral care before, during, and after orthodontic treatment. Close collaboration ensures all dental health needs and goals for patients are addressed through the proper sequencing of multidisciplinary care.

From enhancing dental function and psychology to reducing future problems, orthodontics plays a critical role in establishing lifelong oral health starting at a young age. Thoughtfully guided orthodontic treatment offers benefits extending far beyond a beautiful smile.