Orthodontics is a type of dentistry that aims to improve the appearance, position and function of crooked or abnormally arranged teeth.
The name comes from a Greek word that literally means “to straighten teeth”.
Many more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment for a wide variety of reasons.
Much of what applies to orthodontics for children and teenagers also applies to adults. However, there are some important differences especially when comparing with “Short Term Orthodontics”.
Most children’s courses of orthodontic treatment begin with a referral from a general dentist, whereas the majority of Adult consultations are “self referrals” , initiated directly by the patient.Depending on what treatment is needed, most patients are seen by an experienced Orthodontic Clinician in a local practice or by a consultant in hospital.
Whilst traditional Full Orthodontics using Fixed Braces is usually the most appropriate method of treating children, this is by no means always the case as far as adults are concerned. Adults seeking alternatives to traditional “teeth out and two years wearing train-tracks” are often best treated by more “patient-centred” treatment modalities, such as Short Term Orthodontics, or Invisible Aligners.
The potential benefits of orthodontic treatment include:
- Removal of dental crowding or closing spaces.
- Alignment of the upper and lower dental arches.
- Correction of the bite of the teeth so that the front teeth meet on closing and the back teeth mesh together.
- Reducing the likelihood of damage to prominent teeth.
- Enhancing facial aesthetics.
- Accommodating impacted, un-erupted or displaced teeth.
- Preparation for advanced dental treatment, such as crowns, bridges or dental implants.
- Reversing the drifting of the teeth in older patients who have suffered from advanced gum disease.
These are some of the most common reasons patients seek treatment:
- Protruding upper front teeth – one of the most common dental problems
- Crowding – a narrow jaw may mean there is not enough room for your teeth, resulting in crowding. Spacing- Conversely, some patients have significant gaps between their teeth.
- Asymmetry – particularly when the centre lines of the upper and lower front teeth do not match, perhaps because the teeth have drifted or the position of the jaw has shifted.
- A deep bite – when your upper teeth cover the lower teeth too much
- A reverse bite – when your upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth
- An open bite – when your front teeth remain apart when your back teeth meet; the tongue is often still visible between the upper and lower front teeth.
- Impacted teeth – in some patients, secondary teeth come through in the wrong position or do not erupt at all. Orthodontic treatment can help bring these teeth into the correct position.
Patients should always consider undergoing traditional “Full Fixed Orthodontic Therapy” with an appropriately experienced and capable professional before considering alternatives.
It is vitally important that, especially as far as Adults are concerned, the Aims and Objectives of any treatment, together with any limitations in predicted outcome are fully understood and agreed upon from the outset.
As one of the worlds most famous Orthodontists once wisely noted:
“We should always treat Children and Adolescents “Idealistically” , but Adults “Realistically”.
Orthodontics can move misplaced teeth in to more advantageous positions, but as Adults frequently have “other challenges” such as broken or misshapen teeth, and less than perfect gums, other measures are frequently required even after Orthodontics in order to achieve the desired outcome.
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