Please view our most frequently asked questions below for further information about orthodontics and malocclusions.
Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry focused on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems in alignment of the teeth and jaws.
Orthodontics is beneficial to both adults and children alike. Straight teeth can help an individual to effectively bite, chew and speak. Properly aligned teeth and jaws can help to prevent physical health problems occurring in the future as well as contributing to healthy teeth and gums now.
An orthodontic problem is called a malocclusion, meaning ‘bad bite’.
Orthodontics uses a specialised understanding of growth and development of the teeth and jaws, factoring in each patients’ individual needs. Just as each of our patients is unique, so is every mouth. Everyone grows at different rates and into different sizes and shapes. A good orthodontist balances these principles to achieve the optimal result.
The most well-known removable retainer is the Hawley retainer. It is comprised of a metal wire that usually fits around the six anterior teeth to keep them in place. It is kept in place by an acrylic plate that fits into the palate. The advantage of this retainer is that it is possible to adjust the metal wires to complete treatment and continues any minor movement of the anterior teeth that is required. It is also extremely rigid which allows for prosthetic teeth to be added onto it if needed. The main disadvantage of this type of retainer is that it can interfere with speech.
Another common type of removable retainer is the vacuum formed retainer (VFR) made out of PVC material which is more economical and faster to make. This clean or transparent retainer will fit over the entire arch of the teeth or canine to canine that is produced from a mould. They are similar in appearance to Invisalign trays though those are not considered as retainers. The VFR retainer is clear and virtually invisible, providing aesthetical value to the wearer. It is advised to wear them at night, removing the retainer to eat as it covers the chewing surface of the teeth. During the first few days of wearing their VFR retainer, many people experience extra saliva in their mouth. Speech may be difficult initially but will improve as one gets used to wearing it.
It is true that maintaining good oral hygiene with crooked and crowded teeth is a lot more difficult, making you prone to cavities and gum disease. Once your teeth are straighter, cleaning them will certainly become easier but it is no reason to take less care of your chompers. Once your teeth are straight, you won’t suddenly lose periodontal disease or have a lower risk so it is important to establish a good oral hygiene routine whether you have braces or not. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better the health of your teeth and mouth.
Treatment times often vary between patients depending on what their oral needs are. Mild problems can sometimes be treated in just a few months, while more complex problems can take closer to two years. On average comprehensive orthodontic treatment usually takes between 12 and 18 months. However, many adults only want cosmetic improvements to their front teeth, which can be achieved within a shorter timeframe – closer to six months. Your orthodontist will be able to give you a more accurate idea of how long your treatment should take when you come in for a consultation.
Invisible braces are a term used to describe a range of more inconspicuous braces. These include clear fixed braces, clear aligners and lingual braces – which are fitted behind your teeth. Although none of these is actually invisible, they are extremely discreet.
Lingual braces are placed behind your teeth making them virtually undetectable. Clear aligners like Invisalign blend in with your teeth and are not very noticeable. Clear fixed braces are made out of a tooth colour ceramic and though they are more visible, they are still less visible than their metal counterparts
There are many types of fixed or bonded retainers which include:
- Reinforced fibres
- Fixed canine and canine retainer (boned to only canine teeth)
- Multi-strand retainers (bonded to every tooth)
A fixed retainer usually comprises a passive wire that is bonded to the lingual-side of the incisors – usually only the lower depending on the patient’s bite. They cannot be removed. A fixed retainer is usually prescribed where active orthodontic treatments have affected great changes in the bite and there is a risk of reversal occurring. They are usually kept in place for life. The disadvantage of a fixed retainer is that tartar build-up and gingivitis can occur quite easily due to the difficulty of flossing. Floss threaders are the ideal way to pass through the small space between the retainer and the teeth.
An overbite occurs when the upper teeth are too far in front of the lower teeth. It can be due to a large upper jaw, a small lower jaw, protruding upper teeth or a combination of these factors. Orthodontists call this a class 2 problem. Typically, the jaw growth pattern is inherited, but can be worsened by habits such as thumb-sucking.
Underbites (a class 3 problem) occur when the lower teeth bite in front of the upper teeth. The lower jaw may be too big and / or the upper jaw may be too small. Underbites are usually inherited.
Crowding usually stems from a discrepancy between the space available in the jaw and the size of the teeth. Aside from appearance, crooked teeth may be associated with gum problems and a higher risk of decay due to difficulty in cleaning.
Like crowding, generalised spacing may be related to a tooth-to-jaw size disharmony. Localised spacing can be caused by protrusion of front teeth, or prominence of the fleshy tissue between the front teeth. Other contributing factors include unusually narrow teeth and missing or impacted teeth.
In a deep bite, the upper front teeth cover most or all of the lower front teeth. Sometimes the lower front teeth may even touch the roof of the mouth and cause trauma to the gum. Excessive front tooth wear is a common consequence of an untreated deep bite. Deep bites can also cause gummy smiles and jaw joint pain.
In an open bite, there is an opening between the upper and lower teeth. This condition may exist in the front teeth, in the back teeth, or in both. Tongue thrust, speech problems, allergies, and breathing difficulties might be the cause of an open bite. An open bite can make eating more difficult, such as taking a bite of a sandwich.
Normally the upper teeth bite outside the lower teeth. This is true for both front and back teeth. Crossbites occur when this situation is reversed and upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth. Back tooth crossbites usually result from a narrow upper jaw or sometimes a wide lower jaw. They can occur on one or both sides of the mouth. Sometimes the true bite is edge-to-edge but the lower jaw is moved to the side so that it seems as if only one side is affected. This posturing can cause the jaw to grow abnormally. Front tooth crossbites can also cause this problem if the teeth clash together when the jaws close. Excess tooth wear is the most common result of a front tooth crossbite. Early treatment is always advisable for any crossbite.