The goal of orthodontics is to correct a malocclusion, a bad bite. Teeth may be crowded or crooked. The upper and lower jaws may be out of alignment. Occasionally, even when teeth appear straight, the patient may have a bite which is not even and which may be causing further dental problems. Malocclusions may be inherited familially, may be developmental, or may be caused by poor oral habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.
Orthodontic treatment seeks to address any or all of these problems. The goal of orthodontic treatment is not only to create an attractive smile but to develop a bite that can promote oral health. Straight, uncrowded teeth are a lot easier to keep clean. Crooked, crowded teeth are much more difficult to maintain and can lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Orthodontics utilizes physics to slowly move teeth into the proper position. This is performed by using corrective appliances, including braces and retainers. Brackets are placed on the teeth using bonding technology. Archwires are then threaded through these brackets. The tension and tightness of these wires determine the individual movement of each tooth.
Orthodontics applies constant pressure on each tooth in the desired direction. By making adjustments to the pressure at follow up visits, our orthodontists control the slow movement of the teeth until the malocclusion is corrected. Generally speaking, orthodontic treatment can last from 1-3 years or longer depending on the patient’s age and the severity of the malocclusion. Retainers are often worn to help ensure teeth remain in their new position after braces have been removed.
Historically, most patients did not commence orthodontic treatment until all of their permanent teeth had erupted. They then had a malocclusion diagnosed and addressed between the ages of 12-14. Waiting this long often necessitated the extraction of several permanent teeth in order to create space for orthodontic movement. More extensive movement necessitated the use of headgear and other orthodontic appliances.
It was noted that teenagers’ cooperation in wearing such appliances was often problematic. Interceptive orthodontics is a technique and philosophy which was developed to address certain orthodontic problems between the ages of 7-11. This early intervention and phased treatment can result in fewer extracted teeth and better patient compliance.
Some of the techniques used in this interceptive orthodontic phase include arch expansion, which allows more room for permanent teeth and orthopedic growth appliances which enhance jaw growth and make later orthodontic treatment much simpler. These early interventions act as Phase 1 of a two-step orthodontic treatment.
Phase 2 will occur closer to the time when standard orthodontics generally takes place. Interceptive orthodontic techniques will allow Phase 2 of the treatment to become simpler, less extensive, and less expensive than it otherwise would have been.