Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry devoted to correcting misalignments of the bite and teeth. Using appliances such as braces, headgear and palatal expanders, orthodontists can move teeth and jawbones into their ideal positions for optimal oral functioning and aesthetic appeal. To become an orthodontist, a dentist must undergo up to three years of specialized training after completing dental school.

 Interceptive Orthodontics 

Parents are encouraged to obtain orthodontic evaluations for their children by the time they reach the age of seven. At this age, most children have already lost some of their primary teeth, and permanent teeth have taken their place. Your orthodontist can easily spot problems with tooth eruption or jaw development during this phase and can actually help influence proper growth with the use of orthodontic appliances. Interceptive treatment can correct a number of issues, including expanding the jaws to create more room for teeth to erupt in proper alignment or reserving the space where a baby tooth was lost too soon so that the remaining teeth do not shift and become crooked. Early orthodontic treatments can help eliminate the need for braces later in life or at least dramatically reduce the amount of time braces must be worn. 

 Braces for Children and Teens 

Whether or not interceptive treatment is used, braces are usually placed on children and teens after all of their permanent teeth have erupted, which is around the age of 12 or 13. Orthodontic treatment outcomes are often achieved faster and with less discomfort in children and teens because they are still growing and have malleable, soft bones. Treatment times vary, but most cases take about one to two years. 

 Adult Orthodontic Treatment 

Adults are now seeking orthodontic treatment in record numbers, and this is in part due to new developments in discreet options that do not require the use of unattractive metal appliances. Although the manipulation of teeth and bones is easier in younger patients, it is never too late to obtain treatment to achieve a perfect smile. 

 Types of Braces 

After a thorough evaluation of your teeth, jaws and entire facial structure using a visual examination, photographs and X-rays, your orthodontist will take your needs and desires into consideration to recommend an appropriate course of treatment:

 • Traditional Braces. These braces use metal brackets, and the archwires are held in place with elastic ligatures that are replaced during each adjustment. 
 • Self-Ligating Braces. Using brackets with a special sliding mechanism for easy adjustments, these braces do not require elastic ligatures. Self-ligating braces are more comfortable and may require less time to achieve the desired treatment outcome than traditional braces.
 • Ceramic Braces. A popular choice among image-conscious teens and adults, ceramic braces are designed much like traditional braces, but their brackets are clear and blend with the patient’s tooth color.
 • Invisalign. An adult favorite, Invisalign is an orthodontic method that employs a set of clear aligners that overlay the top and bottom teeth, straightening them gradually each time a new aligner is placed. 

 The Importance of Good Oral Hygiene While Wearing Braces 

While an orthodontist can spot the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease, his or her job is to align your teeth, so you should still visit your dentist regularly. Professional teeth cleaning and oral exams are more important than ever while you are wearing braces because the appliances in your mouth provide numerous places for food particles and plaque to hide. You will need to brush and floss your teeth often, and we can instruct you on the proper way to brush around your brackets and how to maneuver dental floss under your archwires. Your dentist may also recommend a special fluoride rinse to provide extra protection against decay while you are wearing braces. Keeping your six-month dental appointments and maintaining impeccable oral hygiene at home will ensure that your teeth are not only beautiful when your braces are removed but also healthy. 

 Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment 

In addition to providing a great cosmetic outcome, undergoing orthodontic treatment helps lower your risk of developing oral health issues. Properly aligned teeth allow you to reach all surface areas with floss and a toothbrush so that you can thoroughly remove plaque with each cleaning, helping you maintain healthy gums and fresh breath. Correcting a misaligned bite can also reverse problems with biting, chewing and swallowing and alleviate the strain and discomfort caused by TMJ dysfunction. After achieving optimal functioning of your mouth and a stunning smile, your emotional health will improve as well.

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