Most people have heard the term orthodontics, although they may not know what it actually means. This sometimes even applies to orthodontic patients sometimes! It’s important to all of us here at Santa Paula Ortho and Oxnard Ortho that the patients and families we work with are educated on exactly what we do so that they can be active participants in their own orthodontic treatment. To help provide information to both our current and potential patients, we’ve put together this easy primer on what orthodontics is, and the many ways it can benefit your smile.
What is Orthodontics all about?
Orthodontics is a dental specialty that and focuses on the correction of teeth and jaws that are improperly positioned. Orthodontists attend dental school just like dentists do, but once they finish, they continue to study for three more years in an orthodontic training program that’s approved by the American Dental Association. This means that orthodontists like Dr. Lee are dental specialists who know a lot about teeth, jaws, and orthodontic care.
Some people think cosmetic issues are the main thing orthodontists treat, since it tends to be the benefit people focus on most often. However, there are many ways orthodontists can help improve your overall oral health, with treatment benefitting you both cosmetically and fuctionally. One example of this is crooked teeth. While they can certainly detract from your appearance, the more important problem is that they are harder to clean, and in some cases, misalignment can lead to things like headaches, TMJ syndrome, neck, shoulder and back pain. Orthodontic treatment is able to address all this and more!
Who benefits from orthodontic treatment?
There are many common dental issues that can benefit from orthodontics. If you find yourself struggling with any of the following problems, you may be a good candidate for orthodontic treatment:
- Overbite — the upper front teeth lie too far forward and stick out over the lower teeth.
- Underbite — a “bulldog” appearance, where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth are too far back.
- Crossbite — in normal bites, the upper teeth will be out over the top of the lower teeth when biting down normally. With a crossbite, this does not happen. There are a few different types of crossbites, depending on where the upper teeth fall in relation to the lower ones.
- Open bite — there’s a space between the biting surfaces of the front or side teeth when the back teeth bite together.
- Misplaced midline — the center of the upper front teeth doesn’t line up with the center of the lower front teeth.
- Spacing issues — there are gaps in between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that don’t “fill up” the mouth.
- Crowding issues — there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate
Could orthodontic treatment work for me?
You’ll need an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Lee to determine if you would benefit from orthodontic treatment. To do so, various diagnostic tools are used, such as:
- a full medical and dental health history
- a clinical exam
- digitized or plaster models of your teeth
- X-rays and photographs
Santa Paula Ortho and Oxnard Ortho offer free consultations, during which Dr. Lee will talk with you and review the results of your examination. He’ll be able to help you decide which, if any, orthodontic procedures would be right for you. Based on your particular case, a customized treatment plan can be created, taking into account your specific needs and desired goals.
What kind of orthodontic treatment options exist?
Although it will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of your particular problem, there are a number of orthodontic appliances available to help move your teeth into more desirable positions. These appliances are able to retrain the muscles and affect the growth of the jaws by placing a gentle, continuous pressure on your teeth and jaws. There are two different types of appliances, fixed and removable, and an experienced orthodontist will be able to determine which of these approaches is more likely to be be effective for you.
Braces: Traditional braces are the most common and well-known orthodontic appliance, and have thankfully made a lot of improvements over the years! Today’s models are smaller, lighter, and much less obvious than they used to be. Bands are fixed around the teeth and used as anchors, while brackets are bonded to the front of the teeth. Arch wires are then passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. Regular tightening of the arch wire puts tension on the teeth, which will slowly move them into the desired position. This process can take anywhere from several months to a few years.
Fixed space maintainers: Baby teeth can sometimes come out prematurely, and if this happens, it’s important that the space is kept open until the permanent tooth erupts. Neglecting to do so can allow the neighboring teeth to crowd the empty space. A customized space maintainer can be used to prevent this. Spacers have a band attached to the tooth next to the empty space, with a wire extending into the tooth on the other side of the space.
Aligners: Clear aligners, like those provided by the Invisalign system, are the most popular alternative we have to traditional braces for teens and adults. These continue to be used more and more often by orthodontists because these aligners move teeth in the same way fixed braces do, but without the hassle and restrictions that can come with metal wires and brackets. They are virtually invisible, easily removed when eating and drinking, and they make brushing and flossing a snap.
Removable space maintainers: With basically the same function as fixed space maintainers, these are made with an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, with a plastic or wire branch between specific teeth to keep the space between them open.
Jaw repositioning appliances: These devices are sometimes called splints, and can be worn on either the top or lower jaw. They help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position.
Lip and cheek bumpers: Designed to keep the lips or cheeks away from the teeth, these relieve pressure that the lip and cheek muscles can exert.
Palatal expander: This device widens the arch of the upper jaw by applying pressure to the plate and back teeth. The pressure encourages the bones of the roof of the mouth to grow, widening the palatal area in the process.
Removable retainers: You’re bound to have seen one of these before! Worn on the roof of the mouth after orthodontic treatment has been completed, these devices help keep your new smile straight by preventing teeth from shifting back into their previous position.
Headgear: Headgear holds the back teeth in place by placing a strap around the back of the head attached to a metal wire in front, and is useful for slowing down the growth of the upper jaw.
The orthodontic experience with Santa Paula Ortho | Oxnard Ortho
A beautiful, healthy, straight smile can have a positive impact on your life in many ways. If you’re in the Oxnard or Santa Paula areas, and are interested in what orthodontics has to offer you, get in touch with one of our two conveniently located offices to schedule a complimentary consultation. From cosmetic benefits to an overall healthier mouth, Dr. Lee and his team are here to get you started on the path to a self-confident smile!