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Orthodontics

What is orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment is a way of straightening or moving teeth, to improve the appearance of the teeth and how they work. It can also help to look after the long-term health of the teeth.

Why should I have orthodontic treatment?

Many people have crowded or crooked teeth. Orthodontic treatment will straighten the teeth or move them into a better position. This can not only improve their appearance but also the way the teeth bite together, while also making them easier to clean.

In some patients the upper front teeth can stick out and look unsightly. These 'prominent' teeth are more likely to be damaged, but orthodontic treatment can move them back into line. In others, the way the upper and lower jaws meet can cause teeth to look unsightly and lead to an incorrect bite. Orthodontic treatment may be able to correct both.

When the teeth don't meet correctly, this can put strain on the muscles of the jaw, causing jaw and joint problems and in some cases headaches. Orthodontic treatment can help you to bite more evenly and reduce the strain.

At what age should I have orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment is generally best carried out in children, but adults can have orthodontic treatment too - and more and more are doing. Age is less important than having the proper number of teeth. In children it may be necessary to wait for enough teeth to come through before starting treatment.

What does it involve?

The most important thing is to have a full examination. This will usually involve looking at your teeth, taking x-rays and making plaster models of your teeth. We will then discuss what treatment is possible. Once you are sure you want to go ahead, the treatment can begin as soon as you have enough permanent teeth.

Will I need to have teeth taken out to make room?

You may not have enough room for all your permanent teeth and so it may be necessary to take out some permanent teeth to make space. We will tell you whether this is the case. Sometimes space can be created using other forms of treatment.

How is treatment carried out?

Orthodontic treatment can be done by many sorts of appliances, which most people know as 'braces'.

What is a removable appliance?

Simple treatment may be carried out with a removable appliance (a plate that can be taken out to be cleaned). It has delicate wires and springs attached, which move the teeth using gentle pressure.

What is a functional appliance?

It is sometimes possible to change the way the jaws grow, using orthodontic appliances. These functional appliances use the power of your jaw muscles and can help with certain types of problem.

What is a fixed appliance?

Often, teeth need to be guided more accurately than they can be using a removable plate. So fixed appliances are used. These have brackets and bands temporarily stuck to the teeth. A flexible wire joins all the brackets and allows the teeth to be moved. It is not possible for the patient to take the appliance out and so it is called a fixed appliance.

What are the brackets made of?

Fixed braces are not always made of metal. Plastic and ceramic can be used, especially for adults.

What are elastics?

It may be necessary to attach delicate elastic bands to a fixed brace to help move the teeth. We will tell you if you need elastics.

What are 'invisible braces'?

They are tough, clear plastic 'aligners' (moulds) that are used to straighten teeth. Several sets of specially molded, slightly different aligners are made for each patient. Each set is worn for two weeks before being replaced with the next one. They are made from clear plastic, so they are nearly invisible. This means that no one need know you are straightening your teeth.

The aligners should be worn for 22 to 23 hours a day for the best results. They can be easily removed for eating, drinking, brushing and flossing. You need to have all your adult teeth before you can have this treatment.

How long will it take?

The length of treatment depends on how severe the problem is, and may take anything from a few months to two and a half years. Most people can be treated in one to two years.

What happens when the teeth are in the right position?

When treatment is finished the teeth need to be held in position for a time. This period is called retention, and the appliances that hold the teeth in place are called retainers.

The retainers hold newly straightened teeth in position while the surrounding gum and bone settles. The retainers can be removable or fixed depending on the original problem.

How many visits will it take?

Orthodontic appliances usually need adjusting every 4 to 6 weeks. We will tell you how often your appliance will need adjusting.

Will it hurt?

All appliances may feel strange to begin with and can cause discomfort. If the problem doesn't go away we carry out adjustments to help. Teeth are usually uncomfortable immediately after adjustment but this will settle.

How successful will it be?

Success depends on a partnership between us and the enthusiasm and help of patient and parents. It is important to attend regularly and carry out any instructions given by us.
The success of the treatment also depends on the commitment of the patient. For children’s orthodontic treatment it is very important that the patient is as keen as the parent.

Can orthodontics damage my teeth?

Your teeth can be damaged if they are not properly looked after during treatment. Appliances will not in themselves cause damage, but poor cleaning and too many sugary foods and drinks can cause permanent damage. Brackets, wires and braces can trap food and cause more plaque than usual to build up. So the teeth and appliance need to be cleaned very thoroughly.