The American Association of Orthodontists recommends children get their first check-up with an orthodontist at the first recognition of an orthodontic problem, but no later than age 7. Around that age, children have a mix of baby (primary) and permanent teeth. An examination as permanent teeth take the place of baby teeth, and as the face and jaws are growing, gives the orthodontist a wealth of information. If a problem exists, or if one is developing, your orthodontist is able to advise you on whether treatment is recommended, when it should begin, what form of treatment is needed, and estimate its length.
Early Interceptive Treatment
What will I learn at an early check-up?
In general, an examination would reveal if your child has an existing orthodontic problem, or if one is developing. You could also learn that no problems are present at this time.
Will my child need early treatment?
Only a few orthodontic problems need correction while a child has baby teeth.
Are braces used in early treatment?
When a child has early treatment (while most baby teeth are present), the type of treatment varies based on the kind of problem a child needs corrected.
The goal of early treatment is to create a better environment for permanent teeth as they come in. Not all orthodontic treatment is accomplished with braces.
For some patients, early treatment could consist of removal of a stubborn baby tooth, so that the succeeding permanent tooth can arrive in its proper place.
Some patients may need help with how to position their tongue when they swallow, while others may need intervention to stop a thumb- or finger-sucking habit. These are sometimes treated with habit appliances.
If a child’s upper jaw is too narrow, so that the permanent teeth do not have room to come in, treatment could consist of a palate expander to widen the jaw. Braces are often recommended to optimize tooth and jaw alignment after most or all of the permanent teeth are in.
Our orthodontist makes use of the full range of orthodontic appliances and will recommend the type of treatment he/she believes is best suited to your child and correcting his/her orthodontic problem.
If treatment is done while my child has some baby teeth, does that mean s/he is done with treatment?
Not necessarily. Sometimes preventive or interceptive orthodontic treatment is all that a patient needs. More often, though, patients will require a second phase of comprehensive orthodontic treatment after a child has most or all of their permanent teeth. This completes the tooth and jaw alignment that was started with a first phase of preventive or interceptive treatment.
Why move baby teeth?
The purpose of early treatment is not moving baby teeth to improve their appearance. Rather, early treatment is done to create a healthy environment for permanent teeth that will be coming in. While baby teeth may be repositioned in preventive or interceptive orthodontic treatment, their movement is incidental. Baby teeth are there to hold space for permanent teeth, to help with facial development, to make it possible to bite and chew, and for clear speech.
ADULT ORTHODONTICS IN VISTA
Today, one in four orthodontic patients is an adult.
Leaving misaligned teeth untreated may lead to other dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease and difficulty chewing. Orthodontic treatment creates a better bite, making teeth fit better and decreasing the risk of future dental problems regardless of age.
Advances in orthodontics have also made treatment more comfortable and less noticeable than ever for individuals of all ages. Many of today’s treatment options are designed to minimize the appearance of the appliance to better fit any lifestyle.
Teeth are moved by placing gentle, controlled forces on them, as the orthodontist uses “appliances” such as braces or clear aligners to guide them to their ideal positions over a period of time. Tooth movement happens because of the breakdown and rebuilding of bone tissue.
At the end of “active” treatment (when teeth are being moved), most patients will wear retainers to give the new bone a chance to harden and support the new positions of the teeth.
It’s truly a complex biological process, and orthodontists master the multi-faceted intricacies of orthodontic treatment through years of study, including four years of dental school followed by two-to-three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program.
“Appliances” Used in Orthodontic Treatment
Orthodontists use a variety of “appliances” to move teeth and align jaws. Braces may be top-of-mind when you think about orthodontic treatment. But there are many more appliances that orthodontists use in treatment.
What kinds of appliances are there?
Here are examples of some of the orthodontic appliances used to move teeth and align jaws.
Braces are the most common appliance used is orthodontic treatment. Fortunately, they have come a long way.
Basically, braces have two parts: brackets and wires. Wires move the teeth; brackets serve as stationary handles to hold the wires. As needed for an individual’s treatment, other components can be added.
Contemporary braces can be:
• Stainless steel
• Tooth-colored ceramic
Brackets are affixed directly to teeth. Wires are threaded through slots in the brackets.
Most braces go on the front of the teeth. Sometimes braces can be put on the backs of teeth – these are called “lingual” braces. These are virtually invisible.
The wires on some braces are held in place by tiny rubber bands (“ligatures”), and come in a huge assortment of colors. Other braces are “self-ligating” – they do not require ligatures to hold the wires in place.
People sometimes call clear aligners “invisible braces.” They are made of a transparent plastic-like material. They are made to fit the patient’s teeth at different stages of their treatment. Each set of aligners is worn for 1-3 weeks, at least 22 hours a day, before moving on to the next set. Each set is engineered to move the teeth incrementally, per the orthodontist’s treatment plan, until the desired alignment is reached. Tooth-colored attachments on the teeth will help aligners move teeth properly. Many, but not all, kinds of orthodontic problems can be successfully treated with clear aligners.
Braces that are placed behind your teeth. These are very esthetic as they cannot be easily seen from the outside.
A palate expander is used when a youngster has a narrow upper jaw and there is not enough room for permanent teeth. The appliance works by widening the two halves of the upper jaw, called the “palate,” and increases the space available for permanent teeth. As the palate expands, new bone fills in between the two halves. For some patients, expansion may prevent the need to remove permanent teeth. Most patients will need braces later on, when they have most or all of their permanent teeth, to optimize their tooth and jaw alignment.
“Headgear” is the general name for a type of appliance that creates directional forces to move teeth and align jaws that braces alone cannot generate. Headgear contributes to the desired growth of the face and jaws.
Temporary Anchorage Devices (TADs)
Temporary anchorage devices, or TADs, are tiny implants used as a fixed point from which to apply force to move teeth predictably. They can be placed in many different sites in the mouth, depending upon the patient’s needs. TADs are removed when no longer needed.
Which treatment is fastest?
Thanks to advances in technology, just about every type of treatment is relatively fast. Orthodontists make use of the full range of orthodontic appliances – not just one or two – and will recommend the type they believe is best suited to your child and correcting his/her orthodontic problem. Orthodontists are uniquely positioned to make this recommendation based on their education and clinical experience.
To make treatment go as quickly as possible:
• Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on brushing and flossing, and take your child to your dentist for a professional cleaning at least every six months during orthodontic treatment, or more often if recommended.
• Watch what your child eats – avoid hard, sticky, and crunchy foods. Opt for foods that are soft and easy to chew.
• Beware of sugary, acidic soft drinks including regular and diet soda pop, fruit juices, fruit drinks and sports drinks. Tap water is recommended.
• Wear your elastics (rubber bands) as instructed.
• Keep scheduled appointments with your orthodontist.