Having straight teeth is something that most of us have thought about at some point during our lives. For those of us who have wondered about this we may then ask ourselves is there any benefit in straightening them, and if so at what age should I consider carrying it out.
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics refers to the field of dentistry that focuses on assisting the proper growth and alignment of a child’s teeth and jaws.
There are a variety of appliances which are used to help achieve dental, skeletal, and aesthetic facial balance eg. braces, clear aligners, expanders etc.
Do I need it?
Although orthodontics may not be necessary for everyone, there are several situations where it would be beneficial in both the short and long-term.
These situations can include but are not limited to the following:
- Proper speech – speech can be difficult in cases where the teeth are not in contact with each other and/or the lips are unable to close together to form a proper seal.
- Minimization of trauma to the teeth - in cases where there is a significant overjet eg. the top front teeth protrude significantly in front of the lower front teeth. In these situations the front teeth may be more prone to trauma during accidents eg. chipped/broken teeth, knocked out teeth etc.
- Minimization of trauma to the soft tissues – in instances where there is noticeable crowding and/or incorrect positioning of the teeth, the soft tissues of the mouth eg. lips, cheek, tongue, may be more prone to being bitten or rubbed up against by the teeth.
- Assisting dental hygiene – if there is significant crowding or malpositioning of teeth it can result in areas where food and bacteria traps easier. In such cases brushing and flossing may be less effective in removing the build-up of food and bacteria. These areas are generally more prone to the development of tooth decay as well as gum disease.
- Proper chewing and diet – difficulty with eating can result in an inadequate diet if the teeth do not come in contact properly. This can occur in situations where there is a significant difference in size of the jaws, or in stances where the teeth are severely crooked.
- Overall dental and facial aesthetics – in severe cases of malocclusion eg. crooked teeth, protrusive lips, gaps between the front teeth etc., there may be an adverse impact on an individual’s self-esteem and confidence.
- Jaw joint problems – may arise in instances where there is an imbalance in the forces of the mouth due to the incorrect positioning of the teeth and/or jaws. In cases where the position of the teeth and/or jaws results in premature contact or an imbalance in the forces in the mouth, the jaw joints may then be placed under excessive or imbalanced stress. Over time the jaw joints may develop a range of problems eg. clicks, popping sounds, pain, locked jaw etc.
The early identification of developmental and habitual issues and their intervention can help to assist the proper growth and development of the teeth and jaws. If these issues can be addressed early on then it can help minimize the need for more extensive orthodontic treatment in the future.
- Early identification and intervention may be required in the following situations:
- Early premature loss of baby teeth
- Naturally missing adult teeth
- On-going adverse developmental habits eg. thumb/digit sucking etc.
- On-going mouth breathing habits
- Severe trauma to the baby or adult teeth
- Jaw size imbalances
- Severe teeth malposition or crowding
In such cases an early orthodontic approach can help assist the proper growth and development of the teeth and jaw bones. Braces in some cases may still be required in the future to help fine tune the final result.
At this age group we have additional orthodontic options at our disposal eg. braces (metal, ceramic/white), clear aligners (Invisalign, Clear correct etc.). The options available depend on the severity of the crowding as well as your individual situation eg. aesthetic considerations, severity of the case, whether extractions are required, work/life commitments, time frame for treatment etc.
To help achieve the best result possible an orthodontic consultation will be carried out. This would allow for the state of the teeth and gums, your individual goals and limitations, as well as proposed timeframe to be considered. Once we consider all of these factors then an individualised plan can be discussed with you regarding your available options.