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Braces and Clear Aligners: Review of Orthodontic Treatments

Orthodontic treatment is a branch of dentistry that specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. These treatments can range from simple tooth alignments to more complex procedures such as jaw surgery. Orthodontic treatment can improve the overall appearance and function of a person’s teeth and jaw, as well as promote better oral hygiene. In this essay, we will explore the different types of orthodontic treatments available, the conditions that they can help to treat, and the benefits of undergoing treatment. Additionally, we will discuss what to expect during the treatment process and the importance of long-term care and maintenance. With this knowledge, you will be well-informed and able to make an informed decision about whether orthodontic treatment is right for you.

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

raditional wire braces are a type of orthodontic treatment that use metal brackets and wires to move teeth into proper alignment. The braces are composed of a metal bracket that is bonded to each individual tooth, and an arch wire that runs through the brackets and applies pressure to the teeth to move them into the desired position. The arch wire is held in place by small rubber bands, or “ligatures,” that hold the wire in the bracket. Traditional wire braces are the most common type of braces and have been used for many decades to correct a wide range of dental and facial irregularities.

Some of the conditions that traditional wire braces can help to treat include:

  • Overbite, where the upper teeth bite over the lower teeth
  • Underbite, where the lower teeth bite over the upper teeth
  • Crossbite, where the upper and lower teeth do not align properly
  • Open bite, where there is a space between the upper and lower teeth when the bite is closed
  • Crowding, where there is not enough room in the jaw for all of the teeth
  • Gapped teeth, where there are spaces between the teeth
  • Misaligned teeth, where the teeth are not in the correct position

The treatment process begins with a consultation, where the orthodontist will examine the patient’s teeth and jaw, take x-rays and impressions, and develop a treatment plan. The next step is to attach the brackets and wires to the teeth. Adjustments are typically made every 4-6 weeks to adjust the wire and apply more pressure to the teeth. The entire treatment process can take anywhere from 18 months to 2 years, depending on the specific case.

The benefits of traditional wire braces include their ability to correct a wide range of dental and facial irregularities, and their durability. However, it is important to keep in mind that traditional wire braces can be uncomfortable and may cause some pain and irritation to the cheeks, gums and tongue while you wear it.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners, also known as clear-tray or invisible braces, are a type of orthodontic treatment that uses clear, plastic trays that are custom-fit to the patient’s teeth to gradually move them into proper alignment. Clear aligners are an alternative to traditional metal braces and have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their virtually invisible appearance.

Some of the conditions that clear aligners can help to treat include:

  • Mild to moderate cases of crooked or crowded teeth
  • Gapped teeth
  • Bite issues, such as overbite or underbite

The treatment process begins with a consultation, where the orthodontist will examine the patient’s teeth and jaw, take x-rays and impressions, and develop a treatment plan. Next, the orthodontist will use the patient’s impressions to create a series of custom-fit aligners. The patient will then wear each aligner for about two weeks before switching to the next aligner in the series, with each aligner exerting a small amount of force to gradually move the teeth. The entire treatment process can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months depending on the specific case.

One of the main benefits of clear aligners is that they are virtually invisible when worn. This means that they are less noticeable than traditional metal braces, which can make them more appealing to adults and older teens who are self-conscious about the appearance of braces. Clear aligners are also removable, which makes it easier to clean teeth and gums, eat and brush teeth as normal. However, it is important to keep in mind that clear aligners should be worn for at least 22 hours a day to be effective and that patient compliance is key to achieving desired results.

Another benefit of clear aligners is that they tend to be more comfortable than traditional braces, as they do not have metal brackets or wires that can cause irritation to the gums, cheeks, and tongue. They also tend to require fewer adjustments than traditional braces, which means fewer visits to the orthodontist’s office.

Clear aligners are not suitable for everyone, and some cases are more complex and might require traditional braces. It’s important to discuss with your orthodontist about your specific case and if Clear aligners would be suitable for your treatment. Additionally, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene during the treatment process, as improper care of the aligners can lead to tooth decay or gum disease.

Should I get braces or clear aligners?

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.

How Do Clear Aligners Work?

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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