A healthy, functional and attractive smile requires teeth that are straight and jaws that are well aligned. The goal of orthodontic treatment is to correct the cosmetic and functional problems associated with teeth that are either overcrowded, have spaces between them, or that have shifted over time due to extractions, habits, or abnormal bite patterns. Orthodontics can also address skeletal discrepancies between the upper and lower jaws.
Orthodontic treatment can range from the minor movement of a few teeth to the alignment of an entire bite. It may also be used in some cases to align teeth both before and after the surgical correction of severe jaw discrepancies.
Orthodontics utilizes the principles of physics to slowly move teeth into their proper positions. This is performed by using a selection of corrective appliances, including braces, clear aligners, and retainers. Designed to apply incremental and controlled forces to move the teeth in the desired direction, these appliances are adjusted on a regular basis throughout the course of care. Once a malocclusion is corrected and the teeth are completely aligned, retainers are often placed to help ensure that the result remains stable.
Orthodontic treatment time depends on the patient’s age, the severity of the malocclusion and the unique needs of each particular case. Some corrections can be accomplished in a few months while others can take a few years. However, for many malocclusions the average length of orthodontic treatment time is 24 months.
The most common form of orthodontic treatment is the installation of dental braces that help straighten teeth, remove gaps, and correct overbites. Braces are often used in conjunction with other orthodontic appliances such as headgear and expansion appliances to influence the growth of teeth in younger patients. Retainers are often worn to help ensure teeth remain in their new position after braces have been removed. The American Dental Association states that in some cases, orthodontists may choose to use surgery to modify the teeth and jaw.
We suggest that children have their first orthodontic consultation no later than 7 years of age. While many people have corrective orthodontic procedures done early in their lives, it is not uncommon for adults and even seniors to undergo orthodontic treatments. Depending on the specific problems of the patient and the methods used to correct them, orthodontic treatments can last as few as six months but may take three years or more to complete in severe cases.
Straight teeth are easier to keep clean and are more effective in biting, chewing, and speaking than teeth with abnormalities. People who have had orthodontic treatments also report having fewer dental complications later in life.
Invisalign® is a form of orthodontic treatment that works to correct many different types of malocclusions through the use of a series of clear plastic trays called aligners. In many cases it provides an excellent treatment alternative to having traditional orthodontic braces and metal wires.
Invisalign utilizes 3-D computer imaging technology to correct problematic bites or malocclusions by planning a complete sequence of custom-made clear aligners. This series of clear aligners, each of which is worn for a couple of weeks, incrementally move the teeth into place until the final desired corrections are reached.
The advantage and appeal of invisalign appliances is that they are more cosmetic and more comfortable than most other orthodontic appliances. With Invisalign appliances orthodontic treatment is practically “invisible.”