WHAT IS ORTHODONTICS?
Orthodontics deals with dental malocclusions (misaligned and malpositioned teeth and jaws), including the prevention of and treatment of malocclusions. Derived from the French of “straightening teeth” the expressions origins date back to the Ancient Greeks.
An orthodontist (specialist dentist in orthodontics) strives to achieve a healthy, functional and esthetic dental and skeletal structure for every patient. They are concerned not only with teeth but also the jaw and skeletal bones.
Conditions related to orthodontics include misalignments, crooked teeth, missing teeth, skeletal deformations, narrow jaws, wisdom teeth related problems etc.
Orthodontics is concerned with congenital and developmental problems as well as habitual problems.
Who requires orthodontic treatment?
Patients with crooked or misaligned teeth, or missing teeth may require orthodontic correction. Also orthodontics may be used as a means to prevent further gum-related problems.
Jaw-related problems such as crooked bites or non-opposing teeth, as well as functional disorders related to chewing or speaking may require orthodontic attention.
Treatment may consist of the use of a functional apparatus, removable piece or fixed equipment and differ from case to case.
Small problems should be adressed early on and conditions should be either prevented or treated early. Earlier solutions are easier solutions.
Orthodontics is performed in a multi-disciplinary approach with other speciality departments.
How is orthodontic therapy performed?
Orthodontic therapy can last from a few months up to a couple of years. Patience is required every step of the way. Visualizing results is the best way to proceed with long treatments.
Treatment consists of 5 distinct steps;
- Dental Examination
During the initial dental examination the general health of all oral tissues is evaluated and orthodontic-related aspects of the patients are recorded (crookedness, gaps, rotated teeth etc.) along with skeletal jaw-related conditions. The required treatment is roughly decided at this early stage.
The treatment of all other oral conditions (decay, extractions, gum treatments) and the preparation of the oral tissues is performed at this stage. The main goal of this stage is to prepare the patient for orthodontic therapy. A comprehensive oral care program is also established at this early phase. Oral hygiene standards are especially important during orthodontic therapy.
- Diagnosis and Planning
The diagnosis stage consists of intra-oral examinations and radiographic assessments. Panoramic x-rays, cephalometric radiographs and other required films are obtained. For record, various intra-oral and extra-oral photographs are taken to aid in the treatment planning process.
The patient is then informed on the routes of treatment depending on patient demands and orthodontist requirements. A mutual decision regarding the treatment plan is then made.
Advanced orthodontic cases related to jaw malformations or skeletal disorders may require more complex orthognathic surgical procedures.
- Orthodontic Treatment Phase
This phase is basically the execution of the planned treatment and can be performed with either removable appliances or fixed braces.
- Maintenance Phase
In this final stage the braces and brackets places during treatment are removed and the teeth are polished and cleaned. Supplementary treatments, where required, can be performed. As teeth always tend to return to their original position, in order to avoid this unwanted reversal (relapse), retentive elements will need to be used, especially during the early parts of the maintenace period.
Maintenance may again consist of removable or fixed appliances. Significant negligence during the maintenance phase will cause a frustrating reversal of the success of treatment, resulting in dissapointing results.
What to watch for following orthodontic treatment?
Attention to every phase of treatment is crucial during orthodontic treatment. Especially during the maintenance phase negligency can reverse some of the process. Every stage of treatment should be followed with care.
Oral care is critical during and after orthodontic treatment, a regular brushing and flossing protocol is mandatory. Brushing and flossing should always be complemented with oral rinses and mouthwashes.
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