Orthodontics: results you can see.

You already know that braces straighten teeth. But what you may not know is that a beautiful smile is just one of the benefits orthodontics has to offer. Bringing teeth, lips and jaws into proper alignment not only produces a great smile, but a healthy one as well. Straight teeth simply function better and are easier to clean.

And last but far from least is the increased confidence and self-esteem that a healthy smile provides. This psychological benefit can be a significant factor in the decision to undergo treatment and is often listed as a patient's #1 treatment goal. A beautiful smile is a pleasure to own and a pleasure to see.

So remember: an attractive smile is just the start. Improved oral health and general well-being and important treatment goals as well.


Malocclusion or literally, bad bite

It may be a new word to you. "Malocclusion" is a technical term for crooked, crowded or protruding teeth which do not fit together properly. Literally, the word means "bad bite". Most malocclutions are inherited. These include crowding of teeth, too much space between teech, extra or missing teeth, cleft palate and a variety of irregularities of the jaws and face.

Some malocclusions are acquired. They can be caused by thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, dental disease, premature loss of primary of permanent teeth, accidents or some medical problems.

Left untreated, these orthodontic problems can become worse. Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. This may contribute to conditions that may cause tooth decay, eventual gum disease and tooth loose.

A bad bite can also cause abnoral wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and excess stress of the supporting bone and gum tissue.


Orthodontics, who needs it?

At one time, most people believed braces were "just for kids". The fact is, that of the millions of Americans now in orthodontic treatment, more than one of every four is over 21.

Because the basic process involved in moving teeth is the same in adults as in children, orthodontic treatment can usually be sucessful at any age. The health of the teeth, the gums and the supporting bones will also determine the prospects for improvement.

So who can benefit? Most anyone, really. The truth is you're never too old to be your best. Regardless of age, orthodontic treatment is always a change for the better.


When should I see an orthodontist?

While orthodontists can improve smiles at any age, there is usually a best age to begin treatment in order to achieve maximum improvement with the minimum amount of time and expense.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that a child's first visit to an orthodontist take place by age seven, or earlier if an orthodontic problem is detected. Depending on the type of problem, this first visit could take place as early as age two or three. Frequently, malocclusions are present behind seemingly acceptable smiles. And while treatment may not be started until years later, early examination allows the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems and plan appropriate treatment.

In some cases, early treatment may be initiated to prevent more serious problems from developing. This early intervention may often make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated.


How braces move teeth.

There are two essential ingredients needed to move teeth into proper alignment: 1) steady, gentle pressure and 2) time.

To accomplish this, the orthodontist attaches braces, which generally consist of metal or clear brackets and wires, to produce slight pressure on each tooth. During the treatment, the orthodontist will periodically make adjustments to maintain the directional pressure required to continue the movement of the teech.


How much will it cost?

While it's important to keep in mind the lifetime value that orthodontics offers, we know you have specific cost questions, so don't be afraid to ask. You may discover the price tag is considerably lower than you ever thought. Many orthodontic problems require only limited treatment. The cost of treatment will vary, of course, depending on the severity of the problem. Your orthodontist will be happy to discuss fees with you before beginning treatment.

Keep in mind that many dental insurance plans now include orthodontic benefits for just a few dollars a month. This has helped many people offset the cost of treatment. In addition, many orthodontists offer payment plans to help meet individual financial needs.


How long will it take?

No two smiles are exactly alike. And no two orthodontic treatment programs are either. Some active treatment may take from 6 to 30 months, or longer depening on the severity of the problem, the age of the patient and the degreee of movment possible.


Orthodontic treatment, step-by-step.

1. Initial Visit and Examination

Your first visit to the orthodontist is your opportunity to get questions answered and discuss your concerns. It also gives your orthodontist the chance to make a preliminary evaluation and recommend if or when treatment is necessary.

2. Diagnostic Evaluation

Next, diagnostic records (X-rays, photos, impressions, etc.) are taken so that the orthodontist can determine the complexity of the problem and develop a treatment plan.

3. Treatment Conference

The last step before beginning treatment is an appointment to discuss your treatment plan in detail. Like a coach reviewing the pre-game strategy with his team, your orthodontist or the treatment coordinator will show you what's involved in the treatment, what results can be expected, and how your active participation can help assure success.

Your orthodontist will familiarise you with the appropriate new braces materials. You'll discover that braces have come a long way since the first "railroad track" model. New designs include mini-braces, clear braces and even "invisible" braces. Many patients, rather than attempting to conceal their braces, are choosing to celebrate the experience by using colourful bracket ties and rubber bands as accents. Your orthodontist will be happy to share with you the various design and colour options available.

4. Periodic Visits

Regularly scheduled appointments are an important part of any orthodontic treatment. Generally, your orthodontist will want to see you every 4-8 weeks to check your progress and make adjustment to your braces.

5. Retention: the Final Step.

So the braces come off. No more rubber bands, no more appointments. You're finished, right?

Well, almost. Just because your braces have been removed does not mean your orthodontic treatment is finished. You still have one more step to complete: retention. Your retainers are designed to settle your teeth in their corrected position until your bones, gums and muscles adapt to the change.

The final treatment stage is the finishing touch and will help ensure a lifetime of beautiful smiles.