What Is Orthodontics?

Although orthodontics is a fairly common term, it’s not necessarily one that is commonly understood. Many people have heard it, but may not be able to tell you what orthodontics includes, or what an orthodontist actually does. Bennett Orthodontics wants all our patients to be informed on who we are, and what we can do for your you and your family. In this blog post, we’re going to be breaking down exactly what orthodontics is, and talk about the many ways it can benefit you and your smile!

All about orthodontics

Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that focuses on correcting teeth and jaws that are improperly positioned. Orthodontists go through the same four years in dental school as dentists, but then go on to do two or more years of specific orthodontic instruction in an ADA-approved orthodontic training program. By the time they’re able to put “orthodontist” beside their name, they have learned and know a lot about orthodontic care.

There are a number of issues orthodontists treat that help to ensure oral health for you and your family. The most common is cosmetic problems. Teeth that are crooked can definitely detract from your appearance, and lead to decreased self-confidence and lowered self-esteem. Orthodontics can address that, but can also target the associated health issues. For example, crooked teeth are harder to keep clean. With that can come the risk for problems like tooth decay and periodontal disease. Misalignment has also been known to cause extra stress on the chewing muscles that may eventually lead to headaches, TMJ syndrome, or neck, shoulder and back pain.

All of this, and more, can be evaluated and potentially treated by an experienced orthodontist.

Could orthodontic treatment be an option for me?

Speaking of experienced orthodontists, our very own Dr. Bennett is trained and skilled in determining if you would be likely to benefit from orthodontic treatment. We use a number of different diagnostic tools for this, including:

  • a full medical and dental health history

  • a clinical exam

  • special X-rays and photographs

  • 3D scans of your teeth and bite

After reviewing these items, Dr. Bennett, or any other experienced orthodontist, will be able to decide if orthodontic procedures would be right for you. A customized treatment plan can then be formulated based on your specific orthodontic needs.

Many common dental issues can benefit from orthodontic care. Anyone that has one or more of these problems may be a good candidate for orthodontic treatment.

  • Overbite — this occurs when the upper front teeth lie too far forward and stick out over the lower teeth.

  • Underbite — this can often result in a “bulldog” appearance, where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth are too far back.

  • Crossbite — this one is a bit complicated to explain! Essentially, with normal bites, the upper teeth will be out over the top of the lower teeth when biting down normally. When a  crossbite is present, this doesn’t occur. There are a few different types of crossbites, depending on where the upper teeth fall in relation to the lower ones.

  • Open bite — this is present if there’s a space between the biting surfaces of the front or side teeth when the back teeth bite together.

  • Misplaced midline — this is a situation in which the center of the upper front teeth doesn’t line up with the center of the lower front teeth.

  • Spacing — this happens when there are gaps in between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that don’t “fill up” the mouth.

  • Crowding — in this scenario, there are simply too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate without disrupting their natural position.

What kinds of orthodontic treatment options exist?

Orthodontic treatment generally centers around the several different types of both fixed and removable orthodontic appliances. These are used to help move the teeth into more desirable positions. They can also retrain the muscles, and affect the growth of the jaws. Both types of appliances work by placing a gentle, continuous pressure on the teeth and jaws. Your orthodontist will be able to determine the severity of your problem, and this will be one of the deciding factors in choosing which orthodontic approach is likely to be the most effective.

What are some fixed orthodontic appliances?

Braces: Braces are the most common type of orthodontic appliance. Brackets are bonded to the front of the teeth and archwires are then passed through the brackets and engaged. The archwires graduate in size and stiffness and are replaced at your regular orthodontic visits about every 8 weeks. This puts tension on the teeth, gradually moving them to their proper position.

Treatment time varies depending on the ease or difficulty of the case, however the average treatment time with braces is 18-24 months. The good news is that modern braces have made many improvements over the years, and are now smaller, more comfortable, and far more aesthetically pleasing than they’ve ever been before. They also come in a few different versions, from bright colors for kids to clear ceramic braces for image-conscious teens and adults.

Fixed space maintainers: Baby teeth are sometimes lost prematurely through trauma, cavities, or a number of other occurrences. This will sometimes require a customized space maintainer, or spacer, to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. This helps to prevent the remaining teeth from crowding the empty space. The appliance consists of a band placed around a molar on each side with a wire extended around the inside of the arch to hold the space.

What are some examples of removable orthodontic appliances?

Invisalign Aligners: At the moment, clear aligners are the most popular alternative to traditional braces we offer, especially for our teen and adult patients. These aligners are used to move teeth in the same way that fixed appliances work, but without any of the hassle and restrictions that often come with metal wires and brackets. Because these aligners are virtually invisible, they work well for patients who need orthodontic work but shy away from the more obvious look of metal braces. They can also easily be removed when eating, drinking, brushing, or flossing. The key with these aligners is discipline – you have to wear them for them to work!

Removable space maintainers: These serving basically the same function as the fixed space maintainers mentioned above, but are made with an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, and have a plastic or wire branch between specific teeth to keep the space between them open.

Jaw repositioning appliances: These are sometimes referred to as splints, and can be worn on either the top or lower jaw. They’re used to help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position.

Lip and cheek bumpers: These devices are designed to keep the lips or cheeks away from the teeth by relieving the pressure that the lip and cheek muscles can exert.

Palatal expander: This works to widen the arch of the upper jaw using an appliance that fits across the roof of the mouth. Outward pressure is placed on the appliance by a screw mechanism, widening the entire palatal area.

Removable retainers: These are probably the most well-known of the removable appliances! There are a number of types of removable retainers.  These are worn after orthodontic treatment is completed, and help keep teeth straight by preventing them from shifting back to their previous position.

An orthodontic experience you can enjoy

When you choose to invest in orthodontic treatment, you’re choosing to invest in the kind of excellent oral health that can last you a lifetime. A beautiful, healthy smile has the potential to positively impact your life in many ways! Not only are there cosmetic benefits, but you can improve your overall health, as well.

Here at Bennett Orthodontics, we believe that the very best treatment experience is the result of personalized, advanced care. In order to achieve the smile you want and the service you expect, our talented team focuses on you!  Dr. Bennett will work to create a personalized treatment plan that works with every part of your life, using leading-edge techniques and state-of-the-art technology.

If you’re in Mobile or the surrounding area, and have wondered if orthodontic treatment could benefit you, we’d love to talk with you about scheduling a complimentary consultation with us. With a conveniently located Mobile office, a wide variety of accepted insurance plans and very flexible payment options, the experienced, caring team at Bennett Orthodontics is all about giving you The Smile You Want! Call us today and let us help you begin your orthodontic success story! (251)471-8008