Orthodontic treatment is a dental procedure for moving or straightening teeth. Orthodontics helps in correcting teeth and misaligned jaws. Teeth that are not correctly aligned are harder to be kept clean or may decay earlier, causing additional stress on facial muscles while chewing, which can cause headaches, neck pain, and TMJ syndrome.

Orthodontic treatments aim to:

  • Improve the appearance of teeth and mouth (attractive appearance),
  • Enhance the working and life of teeth.

Several dental treatments are available, which can range from clear aligners to micro, ceramic, and metal braces. Every option has its indications and uses.

Orthodontists are the dental professionals with specialized knowledge about these treatment options, their indications, and contraindications.  According to the age, size differences of mouth, teeth, and different misalignments, orthodontists choose a specific treatment option for particular patients. They have the best knowledge about making the most appropriate decision individually.

Orthodontic treatments come with several treatment options, which will be discussed briefly in this article.

Braces

Traditional Braces – braces were comprising of brackets and affixed to the misaligned teeth through wires, which are threaded in the brackets through several slots. These wires which are used to hold the brackets in position are referred to as O-rings or ligatures. The composition of brackets is from stainless steel, while wires are mostly metal alloys, which help in giving a gentle but constant force to teeth to bring them back to normal position.

Traditional ceramic braces – the purpose of these braces is the same as of those traditional braces, but these ceramic braces are mostly tooth-colored, which makes them appear invisible. In this type of braces, brackets are made up of porcelain or ceramic material, and the composition of wires is the same.

Self-ligating metal braces – braces are consisting of affixed braces and wires to teeth. In some patients, metal bands can be found encircling the back teeth. In this type of braces, built-in chips help in holding the wires to the braces bracket.

Self-ligating ceramic braces – these braces are the same as those self-ligating metal braces in function, but the appearance of these braces is almost invisible. These brackets in these braces are made up of porcelain or ceramic material.

Clear aligners (like Invisalign and Smile Direct Club)

Clear aligners, like Invisalign and Smile Direct Club, are thin and clear trays (plastic-like trays) that fit the patient’s teeth. Donning and doffing of these aligners is the responsibility of the patient himself.

In order to move the teeth from their place, a series of aligners is designed. The usage time of these clear aligners , like Invisalign and Smile Direct Club, is about 2 to 3 weeks while they help in moving a millimeter of the teeth at one time. The aim of the aligners is the correction of misaligned teeth according to individuals’ specific problems.

Archwires

Archwires are designed to fit into brackets’ slots and help in moving the teeth. These archwires come in round and rectangular shapes.

Round wires have applications in the earlier intervention of misaligned teeth or orthodontic treatments, while rectangular archwires are commonly used for therapy in later stages of orthodontic treatment for refined tooth movement and controlled tooth movement.

Retainers

Retainers are the devices that are thin, transparent, plastic-like, and slightly flexible in appearance. Retainers tend to affix to teeth in their exact placement and shape.

Retainers are of two types:

  • Removable retainers
  • Fixed retainers

Both types of these retainers are used for holding the teeth in a new position post orthodontic treatment. These devices help the newly grown bone to harden appropriately around the teeth. The success key of orthodontic treatments is wearing of devices as per instructions and guidance. Patients are advised to regularly (full-time) wear these retainer post six months of orthodontic treatments. While this wear time can be reduced to only night-time with time.

Elastics

In order to exert an additional force to teeth for moving them into an ideal position, elastic or tiny rubber bands are used. These bands are attached to the teeth through hooks either on upper or lower brackets. This attachment can be diagonal or vertical configuration, depending upon the need of an individual. The donning and doffing of these elastic bands are the responsibility of patients who are instructed by their orthodontist.

The wear time of elastic is always prescribed, and it is discouraged to wear them for more time than required. If elastic bands are worn for more than the required time, they can put an additional and unwanted force on teeth, which can have harmful consequences.

Headgear

A device that is used to slow down the upper jaw’s growth. This device is attached to the patient’s head or faces with the help of a neck strap. It helps in transferring the force to teeth through face bow to patient’s palatal expander or dental braces, which helps in the correction of majorly severe problems related to bite, and retention of the patient’s jaws and teeth.

Mouthguard

An appliance or device which is mainly used by athletes for protection of their teeth from trauma during sports activities, fights, and competitions. Mouthguards are of various types, including flexible and rigid types. The mouthguards which deliver maximum protection are custom-made. An association of American Orthodontists suggests adults and children wear the mouth guards while participating in any sports or recreational activity for maximum protection of teeth and gums.

The length of orthodontic treatment can vary depending upon the individual’s needs. Mostly, it takes about a few months to 2 and a half years for a full recovery. Follow up is the necessary component of this treatment, and patients might require orthodontists visits every 4-6 months.

What to expect after orthodontic treatment?

Mostly the orthodontic treatments have a good prognosis, but sometimes it is normal for teeth to do minor movements throughout life in case of permanent orthodontics. A permanent guarantee for orthodontics can not be ensured. The orthodontic treatment is based upon the orthodontists, the option of treatment, handling techniques, and care altogether.

At first, these devices can feel a bit uncomfortable and strange, but with time the problem will fade away. In case, if the problem has not subsided even after some time, then patients need a referral to an orthodontist for further examination and evaluation.

Risks of orthodontic treatment:

During orthodontic treatments, teeth can be more prone to damage if appropriate care and handling are not carried out. More plaque can accumulate and build up if the food gets entrapped in braces and wires. Patients with diabetes and other comorbidities can have bleeding and wounds and may cause several complications.

Precautions:

While going through orthodontic treatment:

  • Always take care of oral hygiene and avoid sugary foods
  • Ensure proper cleaning
  • Handle the devices with appropriate care
  • Don’t let the plaque accumulate around the teeth
  • Adapt brushing routine at least twice a day one at day time and one at night.
  • Use toothpaste stronger in the concentration of fluoride.

Summary:

Dentistry is a field of medicine related to oral health. Orthodontic treatments are the branch of dentistry in which misaligned jaws and bones are modified and realigned according to patient’s needs and satisfaction.

 Several treatment options are available as braces (fixed or removable), aligners, archwires, retainers, elastics, headgears, and mouthguards. Orthodontic treatment has a good prognosis, but extra care is needed during the whole time because sometimes, additional stress placed on oral structures can cause further damage and complications.

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