Commonly referred to as braces, most everyone has some idea what is being treated which is generally crowded, crooked teeth. Usually this is done in the teen years, but you are never too old as more and more older patients are have orthodontics done. The ultimate goal after braces is to have better occlusion; how your maxillary (upper) teeth fit with your mandibular (lower) teeth. After braces, teeth are not crowded, diastemas (gaps) are closed, crossbites (upper teeth should be out and over lower teeth) are eliminated and overbites, underbites and overjets are corrected. Depending on the severity of the original problem, orthognathic surgery may required in which the jaw is surgically repositioned, though that is certainly not the typical case. What teeth get moved where is not just a matter of guesswork; the orthodontist will actually make measurements of distances and angles that certain teeth and anatomical landmarks make utilizing models and x-rays taken during the initial examination. Most orthodontists will provide free consults prior to that time, in order to advise when it is best to actually start treatment. Your general dentist can help advise along the way as well, but ultimately the decision of when to start is between you and the orthodontist. Many times it is pretty much a certainty that braces will be needed, but due to differences in when permanent teeth erupt there can be differences in age when treatment is done. Having the orthodontist involved early for consults is beneficial. It is much better to have them say let’s look again in a year, than to say, I wish we had started two years ago.
Why do these problems develop in the first place and why should they be corrected? A good deal of it is inherited, after all your DNA determines the size of your teeth and jawbones. Almost all of us have 28 permanent teeth, only some of us will have 3rd molars (wisdom teeth) and even those that have them may have one, two, three or all four. When your teeth are crowded, it isn’t so much that you have too many teeth, it’s more that your jaw bone isn’t big enough for the size tooth that you have. Often times that bone can be encouraged to grow a little; very helpful when correcting crossbites. Thumbsucking can affect the shape of the palate and the position of the teeth. Traumatic injury can also have an affect. There are a variety of reasons to go through with braces, several of which were mentioned above. Additionally, by having straighter teeth it becomes easier to maintain them and prevent cavities and gum disease from developing. Correcting malocclusion can eliminate headaches for some.
While you are in braces, home care is paramount. Who wants to have nice straight teeth but with a bunch of cavities that now have to be restored? Buy and use a WaterPik! If you have had braces there are two things you should do afterwards. The first is to wear your retainer at night, the longer the better, preferably for life. Teeth can relapse years after orthodontics were completed. Secondly, be sure to consult your general dentist about 3rd molars (wisdom teeth). If they are present, but not yet erupted, they can cause crowding issues as the start to erupt.