The field of orthodontics is most commonly associated with treatment for pre-teens and teenagers, but an increasing amount of adults are choosing to correct jaw irregularities (malocclusions) and misaligned teeth with orthodontics. It is now estimated that approximately one-third of all orthodontic patients are adults. The major advantage of treating irregularities at a young age is that orthodontic appliances are widely accepted in youth and ideal alignment can be achieved before adulthood. Most orthodontists agree, however, that it is never too late to get braces.
Aside from the pleasing aesthetic of a beautifully straight smile, correcting malocclusion and teeth misalignment with braces is beneficial for a number of other reasons:
- Reduced Tooth Decay – Misaligned teeth can make maintaining adequate oral hygiene incredibly difficult. Hard-to-reach spaces can become breeding grounds for the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay.
- Reduced Wear and Tear – Chewing capability is impacted by malocclusion. Improper alignment means that as food is chewed, force is not evenly distributed. This can lead to flattened teeth and lopsided wear and tear on dental enamel.
- Relief of Jaw Pain – Not only does a comfortable bite distribute pressure evenly across teeth, it can also create smooth, pain-free dental function. Patients with malocclusion experience jaw joint disorders (TMJ dysfunction) that create clicking, popping, and discomfort when opening and closing the mouth.
What Types of Misalignment Require Braces?
An oral health professional can successfully treat jaw irregularities and teeth alignment issues with orthodontic braces. Here is a brief overview of the most common types of issues and alignment irregularities that require braces:
- Overbite - An overbite occurs when the maxilla (upper jaw) protrudes further than the mandible (lower jaw). This condition can give the chin a sunken appearance and make the smile look toothier than normal.
- Underbite – An underbite occurs when the mandible protrudes further than the maxilla. This condition may be the result of growth irregularities and can make the chin look overly large.
- Overcrowding – Overcrowding occurs when there is insufficient room for the adult teeth to erupt and align. In some cases, a tooth or several teeth may need to be extracted to provide room on the arch for proper alignment.
What Kind Of Braces Will I Need?
Dental braces tend to fall into two major categories: fixed and removable. Before recommending a specific course of treatment, your dental professional will visually examine your mouth, take x-rays and form bite impressions. Once a firm diagnosis has been made, a discussion regarding treatment options can take place to determine the quickest and best procedure.
Here is a brief overview of some common types of braces:
- Fixed Dental Braces – These dental braces have two major components: brackets and an archwire. A metal, clear or ceramic bracket is glued to each tooth and an archwire is used to link them. During adjustment appointments, the orthodontist will gently tighten or replace wires to train the teeth into the desired position.
- Lingual Braces – These braces are fixed yet invisible because they are fitted behind the teeth. Lingual braces are effective for straightening teeth, but on occasion cause minor speech problems and tongue discomforts due to their positioning.
- Invisalign® – This system of removable aligners is favored by many adults because of its natural appearance. A series of plastic trays are used to gradually move teeth into proper alignment.
- Retainers – When realignment is complete, measures need to be taken to ensure that the teeth do not shift back into the old alignment. Retainers hold teeth in the desired position, allowing the bone to form around teeth’s new position.
If you have questions or concerns about dental braces, please contact your dental health professional.