Orthodontics is the first branch in dentistry which deals with the diagnosis and treatment of improper bites. Improper bites is commonly known as malocclusion. Malocclusion refers to improperly aligned teeth and jaw. Orthodontic treatments involves design and use of corrective instruments to treat malocclusion defects. They are also concerned in dealing with various aspects of facial growth and appearance. Hence this dentistry branch is often described as “dentofacial orthopaedics”. The results of orthodontic treatment are seen to be successful and exists life-long.
The misalignment in teeth or jaw may result from injury, thumb sucking, hereditary disorder, or other unknown reasons. Malocclusion shows to have no affect on physical health and is not categorized as a disease. However, it greatly affects the self-confidence of a person. It leaves the person feel embarrassed in social events. In severe circumstances, it may even lead to depression. It may also alter proper eating, cleaning of teeth, and speech.
Orthodontics involves the use of a wide variety of medical dental devices to correct misalignments. The various devices include braces, headgears, plates, etc. Orthodontic methods specializes to correct various conditions such as:
- Wide gaps between teeth
- Improper alignment of tips of teeth
- Crooked teeth
- Speech and eating problems
- Health issues of gums and teeth
- Excessive teeth wear or trauma
- Improper bite
The treatment comprises of different devices which may be fixed type or removable type. Depending upon the severity in condition, an appropriate type of treatment device is chosen.
Orthodontic treatments usually use fixed devices when precision is an important factor. These devices requires the patient to leave some food and drink items such as hard sweet, toffee, or carbonated drinks. Fixed devices are often used with special gum shields especially for sport persons. The different fixed devices include:
Braces are the most commonly used fixed devices. It mainly consists of bands, brackets, and wires. Bands usually acts as anchors which are fixed firmly around the teeth. Brackets are often confined to the front portion of teeth. Through these brackets passes the arch wires which attaches to the band. These braces are adjusted once in a month. It takes about several months for treatment course to end. Braces occur in both colored and clear style, as per the patient’s preference.
- Fixed space maintainers
The fixed maintainers are mostly used in children when milk tooth goes away. The maintainer helps to keep the tooth on either sides from filling the gap. It is required only until the permanent tooth appears. On one of the teeth next to the gap, a band is fixed. From this band, a wire goes to the other tooth.
- Special fixed appliances
Bands are used to attach these appliances. They aim to control tongue thrusting and thumb sucking. However, they are often chosen as last resort. This is because they mostly provide an uncomfortable feeling.
Minor problems such as thumb sucking or slightly crooked teeth are treated with removable devices. They can be easily removed from teeth while eating, flossing, and cleaning. The examples of removable devices include:
Aligners are being used as an alternative to traditional braces in adults. Aligners being virtually unnoticeable can be removed while brushing, flossing, etc. However, it does not use any metal wires or brackets.
In head gear, a metal wire is fixed in the front or, face bow. This wire is then attached to the strap placed at the back of the head. This helps to limit or slow down the growth of upper jaw. It aims to pull back the front teeth while back teeth remains fixed.
- Lip and cheek bumpers
Cheek and lip muscles often exert pressure on the teeth. These bumpers are helpful in keeping lips or cheeks away from teeth. This, in turn, reduces the pressure on teeth.
- Palatal expander
Palatal expander is a plastic device which helps to widen the arch of upper jaw. Screws are used to attach this device to the roof of the mouth (palate). These screws exert pressure on the joints to push them outward. As a result, the size of palatal area increases.
- Removable retainers
These devices are meant to prevent the teeth from moving to their original position. They are placed on the palatal area of mouth. If further modified, they are capable of reducing thumb sucking in children.
- Removable space maintainers
The removable space maintainers performs the same function as fixed space maintainers. They are made up of acrylic base. These devices are placed over the jaw. In this arrangement, wire or plastic branches are placed between each teeth. This helps to keep the open space between the teeth.
- Splints (Jaw repositioning appliances)
The splints are designed to train jaw to close properly. They are attached either to the upper or lower portion of jaw. The splints are often used to correct temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).