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An In-Depth Guide to Orthodontics


What should you know about orthodontics? Start here:

Working Together for You

In the treatment of dental abnormalities, bad bites, known as, malocclusion and crooked teeth are usually corrected by an orthodontist. Abnormalities of the jaw are usually corrected by an oral surgeon. When both conditions exist, it is common to find an orthodontist and oral surgeon working together.

This teamwork approach to complex dental and facial problems is providing better oral health for thousands of adults and children. These thousands are rewarded with straight teeth, bright smiles and facial symmetry beauty of shape, form and position.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry that is devoted to bringing the teeth, jaw bones and facial profile into proper alignment. An orthodontist is a dentist who has completed an additional two to three years of continuous study in an ADA-approved, university-affiliated graduate orthodontic program. They are truly specialists in dentistry.

When is the best time for treatment?

Straight teeth are one benefit of orthodontics.

Many parents ask us, "When is the best time to see the orthodontist?" Between the ages of five and seven, the front permanent teeth begin to come into the mouth, and at this time, overbite and crowding become noticeable to the orthodontist.

This is also an ideal time to begin early cosmetic dental treatment to take advantage of the child's growing facial bones to achieve the best treatment results. Because 75 percent of a child's growth occurs before the age of 10, early treatment expands and directs moldable, growing bones to produce a greatly improved profile and a healthy, properly functioning mouth.

In many patients early treatment achieves results that are unattainable once the face and jaws have finished growing. Waiting until the teenage years to correct the imbalances of facial bones can result in a less than ideal profile, often require oral surgery tooth extraction, and begin TMJ, jaw joint difficulties. Early treatment seeks to intercept jaw and dental imbalances to produce a full and aesthetically pleasing smile without removing adult teeth. During this pre-adolescent period, it is impossible to perfectly predict how the remaining adult teeth will grow into the mouth.

Therefore, in some cases it is necessary to place braces for a short period when growth is complete and all teeth have emerged. Our experience in pediatric dentistry has shown that early intervention frequently makes the completion of treatment at a later age easier for patients and less time consuming for parents.

An early examination allows the orthodontic specialist to determine when a child's particular problem should be treated for maximum improvement with the least time and expense. As always, our goal is to help our patients achieve a stable, natural environment for the fullest development of the facial features, jaws and teeth, leading to a beautiful smile.

What can orthodontics do for you?

-Increase self-esteem by improving appearance, decrease the likelihood of gum disease and premature tooth loss by relieving stress on gums and bones, which results when teeth do not meet properly.

-Eliminate speech problems caused by protruding or malaligned teeth.

-Help reduce and treat jaw joint difficulties known as, TMJ.

-Lower the incidence of tooth decay in crowded, overlapping teeth which can become food trap areas.

-Make the jawbone develop so there is less need to extract adult teeth.

-Help correct poorly grown jaws in adults with combination orthodontics and jaw surgery.

What are the step to orthodontic care?

The first step is an initial consulting visit. A complete and thorough dental exam is conducted of the teeth and surrounding structures, airway passages, temporomandibular jaw joint, facial aesthetics, profile, related muscular functions and speech patterns.

Depending on the findings at the examination appointment, the orthodontist may advise one of the following procedures for the next step:

- Growth and development observation. It is too early to make an improvement by doing anything now. It is best to wait for continued facial and dental development. You will be recalled in 6 to 12 months for further evaluation.

- No treatment is indicated.

- Growth guidance and early treatment: phase one treatment-Preventive or early treatment takes advantages of the patient's growth to achieve the most optimal treatment result. Because 75 percent of a child's facial growth occurs before the age of 10, patients who have crooked teeth due to crowding and are treated at a young age can enjoy a fuller, more aesthetically-pleasing smile without having teeth extracted. Early treatment also modifies growth and corrects the imbalances responsible for the malocclusions of overbites. The result is not only a greatly improved profile but also a healthy, properly functioning mouth. It can also mean less time in phase two: full braces, should then be required. To thoroughly evaluate the problem, full records and a complete diagnosis are necessary. Records include full-mouth X-rays, an X-ray of the jaw bones, photographs of the face and teeth, and plaster models of the teeth.

- Comprehensive full braces: phase two - treatment is needed now. Because most of the adult teeth have erupted, it is time to re-align the teeth and the bite to their final position. Full records and a complete diagnosis are necessary.

What is surgical orthodontics?

Surgical orthodontics is a form of oral surgery to correct severe cases of bad bites and jawbone abnormalities.

What is surgical orthodontics required?

The upper and lower jaws are the bases upon which the teeth are aligned. When the jaws are too far apart, the proper bite cannot be achieved with braces alone. The orthodontist then embarks upon a treatment mode that plans for future surgical intervention. Surgery is the only treatment option in these severe cases.

What treatment is used?

Most orthodontic patients undergo an initial period of orthodontic treatment to align the teeth so that they will fit properly after surgery is completed. Surgery usually is not scheduled until the teeth have been properly aligned.

Orthodontic appliances used to align teeth prior to surgery are left in place during the surgical procedure to aid in stabilizing the teeth and jawbones. After surgery, there is a period of follow-up orthodontic treatment to achieve final alignment of the teeth, thus complementing the new facial symmetry.

Can oral surgery be avoided?

In younger patients, future facial growth combined with timely orthodontic intervention can sometimes correct protrusions or retrusions of the jawbone. An orthodontist working with children as young as age seven can use one of several orthodontic appliances to direct bone growth, thus eliminating the need for surgery in some patients. However, in adults and those patients who have completed their bone growth, the improper tooth and bone relationship is frequently treated with surgery.

Are there any risks?

The portion of surgical orthodontic treatment provided by an oral surgeon entails the usual risks inherent with any type of surgery. However, surgical orthodontic procedures are not new or experimental; they are routinely performed in offices or hospitals on a regular basis. If you or a member of your family are about to undergo surgical orthodontic treatment, simply ask your oral surgeon to explain the risks to set your mind at ease.

What are the rewards?

Following completion of the surgical orthodontic process, dental health is improved-no more bad bites or crooked teeth. The jawbones and profile relationships are also more stable, functional and aesthetic. Facial appearance is improved. The most lasting reward is a more beautiful, healthier and happier you!

What problems do orthodontics correct best?

There are a wide variety of causes of jawbone discrepancies: heredity, trauma or other developmental problems. The most commonly corrected problems include: a protruding or retruding chin; an unsightly display of gum tissue above the upper front teeth; an inability to achieve lip contact when the lips are relaxed; and overall elongation of the face.

Orthodontic Insurance

Orthodontic insurance is altogether different than general dental insurance! Orthodontic insurance is based on a one time benefit. General dental insurance is based on a yearly benefit. Some plans specifically limit your choice of orthodontists. Other plans allow freedom of choice.

Most offices will gladly assist you with processing your orthodontic insurance claims and help you receive your maximum allowed benefit; but you, as the insured party, are ultimately responsible for the total balance of your account.

Know how your benefits work! Please take time to read your benefits booklet. Know your options and be familiar with specific exclusions and limitations of your dental plan. Remember, a change in your employment can affect your insurance coverage. If you are unhappy with your current dental plan's coverage, talk with your benefits manager about changing plans, improving plans or starting their own self-funded dental plan.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right treatment plan for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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