We would all like to have a dazzling smile with straight white teeth. Besides the aesthetic benefits, properly aligned teeth can help prevent more complex dental issues. It is easier to maintain oral hygiene through brushing and flossing if your teeth are placed in such a way that they can be easily cleaned. This can help prevent cavities, the accumulation of plaque and other oral health problems.
Who is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the straightening of teeth. Orthodontists require additional schooling for their speciality. They provide services to deal with crowded and misaligned teeth, overbites, underbites and more.
Difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist
All orthodontists are dentists but only some dentists are orthodontists. Dentists deal with a broad range of oral health issues that are related to the teeth, gums, nerves and jaw. They provide services like root canal treatments, applying veneers and sealant, etc. Orthodontists specialize in the alignment of teeth and ensure a person has an optimal bite. At times the two terms are used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between dentists and orthodontists.
Do you need an orthodontist?
Below we have highlighted some common issues where the skills of an orthodontist can be very useful.
When the upper teeth extend over the lower teeth, this is known as an overbite. Most people naturally have an overbite. Also known as a distal occlusion, if the space between the upper and lower teeth is too large it can lead to problems like pain in the jaw or the wearing down of teeth. Mentioned below are problems that may occur due to a large overbite:
- Problems with speech
- Issues with breathing
- Pain while chewing or biting
- Inefficient chewing
- Damage to other teeth and gums
When the lower teeth extend over the upper teeth it is referred to as an underbite. An underbite is also called a prognathism. A severe underbite can lead to oral health problems like:
- Problems with speech
- Challenges with biting and chewing
- Pain in the face and mouth
A crossbite can affect one side, both sides or the front of the mouth. A crossbite can affect one tooth or a group of teeth. In this type of misalignment the upper teeth may overlap the lower teeth or vice versa. An untreated crossbite may lead to:
- Teeth grinding
- Uneven damage to the enamel
- Tooth loss
Some patients also report experiencing muscle tension or headaches.
4. Open bite
Sometimes the upper and lower teeth slope outward in such a way that they do not touch each other when the jaw is closed. There are various causes for an overbite like sucking on a pacifier or thumb, tongue thrusting, etc. Open bite can lead to:
- Uneven wear and tear of teeth
- Challenges with chewing food
- Difficulties with pronunciation
5. Misplaced Midline
When the centre of two lower teeth and the two upper teeth is not aligned it is referred to as a misplaced midline. A misplaced midline can cause problems with a person’s bite.
6. Gaps and Spacing
The gap of space between teeth is referred to as diastema. Having gaps between teeth can increase the risk of decay and gum disease. Braces, retainers, veneers, etc are some solutions that can be used to reduce the space between teeth.
Crowding takes place when there is not enough space in a person’s mouth to accommodate all teeth comfortable. Crowding leads to teeth getting displaced. The possible consequences of crowding are dental attrition, receding gums and an increased risk of dental decay.
How does an orthodontist treat the ailments listed above? Treatments involve several types of appliances that are both fixed and removable. These are used to help move teeth, retrain muscles and more. They work by placing gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws. Depending upon the severity of your dental problem, your orthodontist will recommend which approach to take.
1. Fixed appliances include:
Braces are the most common fixed appliances, consisting of wires, bands and/ or brackets. While the bands are fixed around the teeth as anchors for the appliance, the brackets are often bonded to the front of the tooth.
Special Fixed Appliances
They are used to control habits such as tongue thrusting or thumb sucking, with appliances that are attached to the teeth by bands.
Fixed Space Maintainers
In the event of premature loss of a baby tooth, a space maintainer is used to keep the space open until the permanent tooth comes in.
2. Removable appliances include:
They are an alternative to traditional braces for adults. Since they are invisible and easily removable, they are highly popular with patients in order to move teeth in the same way as orthodontist braces, only without the brackets and metal wires.
Removable space maintainers
These devices are similar in function to fixed space maintainers, and are made with an acrylic base with plastic or wire branches.
Jaw repositioning appliances
Also known as splints, they are worn on either the lower or top jaw and help train the jaw to open and close in a favourable position.
Lip and Cheek Bumpers
These keep the lips or cheeks away from the teeth, helping to relieve the pressure exerted by them.
It is a device used to widen the arch of the upper jaw and is made of a plastic plate which fits over the roof of the mouth.
They are worn on the roof of the mouth and help in preventing the teeth from reverting to their original position.
This device is used to slow down the growth of the upper jaw and hold down the teeth. It involves a strap that is placed around the back of the head and attached to a metal wire in the front.
Kids & Adult Orthodontics
Orthodontics is most commonly applicable for children and is an important part of paediatric dentistry. When it comes to dental orthodontics for your child, it is advisable to consult an orthodontist for a treatment course between the ages of 8 and 14. This is the right time for starting orthodontic treatment because between those ages children lose most of their baby teeth and their permanent teeth have sprouted.
At times adults over the age of 18 experience health problems due to the misalignment of their teeth. In such situations adult orthodontics can help address these issues, adult metal braces, invisalign braces, retainers, etc are also used to improve their oral health.
Do you have any questions or do you need any advice?
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