Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that treats dental misalignment and malocclusion.
Orthodontists complete four years of dental school and two or three years of an orthodontic residency program to be able to practice orthodontics. During this time, they learn how to create treatment plans and position the brackets of braces (and other appliances), so that each patient achieves perfectly aligned teeth and jaws.
General dentists can also offer orthodontic treatment as there are several continuing education courses they can take to gain the training and experience they need to provide outstanding results for their patients.
The Goal of Orthodontics
Did you know that the main goal of orthodontics is to help the patient achieve optimal oral health? Most people believe that braces and other orthodontic treatments are strictly for aesthetic purposes– to improve the appearance of crowded, crooked, or gapped teeth. Actually, orthodontics moves the teeth and jaws into their proper positions to create a healthy and functional bite. The beautiful smile is simply a bonus.
If you’re in need of orthodontic care, you may be wondering “how does orthodontics actually work to shift my teeth?” This is a common question for new patients, and we’re happy to answer!
Gentle and Controlled Tooth Movement
Though there are different types of orthodontic treatments, all of them work by placing gentle and controlled pressure on the teeth. This pressure or force causes the bone around the teeth to break down, then once the teeth have moved to their intended positions, the bone rebuilds itself.
While the pressure is slight, the moving of the teeth through the bone is painful. Fortunately, that pain only lasts about 24-48 hours after the braces are tightened or the aligners are switched out. In the time between orthodontic appointments, the bone and other oral tissues are adjusting to the teeth’s new positions.
To better understand this process, we must discuss the different orthodontic appliances:
If the word “braces” makes you think of the awkward middle school years, think again. Many adults wear traditional metal braces today. Thankfully, modern technology has created more discreet metal braces with thinner wires and an overall sleek appearance. Patients also have the option of ceramic brackets that match the color of their natural teeth.
Traditional braces are made up of archwires, brackets, O-rings, and buccal tubes. Some patients may also require spacers, springs, and headgear.
The wires move the teeth and the brackets hold the wires in place. Patients visit their orthodontist every few weeks to have their wires tightened so the teeth continue to move. Traditional braces use a pulling force to shift the teeth.
Clear aligners (aka “invisible braces”) are plastic, removable molds that use a pushing force to guide the teeth into their proper positions. Each aligner is designed to move the teeth slightly and they do so within the first 24 hours of wearing them. However, it takes between seven and ten days for the tissues in the mouth to adjust and be ready for the next set of aligners.
Rather than having wires tightened, patients who choose clear aligners will simply switch out their current set of aligners for a new set that continues to gently shift the teeth.
Temporary Anchorage Devices (TADs)
An alternative to headgear, TADs are titanium alloy dental implants that are strategically placed in the jawbone and connected to the tooth with a ligature. This device moves certain teeth (using either a pulling force or a pushing force) without compromising the position of the others.
These are used alongside traditional braces in complex cases, usually for only a few months.
Also used in conjunction with traditional braces, power chains apply additional force to move teeth quickly and dramatically. A power chain consists of interconnected elastic ligatures that span across several teeth and keep the archwire connected to the brackets.
Schedule Your Initial Consultation
Both traditional braces and clear aligners (sometimes paired with other orthodontic appliances) can improve your bite, chewing abilities, and speech patterns. In addition, your smile will look beautiful! All of these benefits can play a significant role in improving your oral, systemic, and mental health.
Your next question might be “Which orthodontic treatment is right for me– traditional braces or clear aligners?” The best way to answer that question is to visit our office for an initial consultation. During this appointment, he or she will evaluate your teeth and bite to determine which orthodontic treatment will be most beneficial for your smile.
Call to schedule your appointment today!