If you find yourself with a referral from your dentist to see an orthodontist, it’s usually a good idea to heed the advice. The benefit of cosmetic braces is wide-reaching, going beyond simple appearances. Orthodontic treatment can help you avoid issues with your oral health later down the road. When teeth are crooked and overcrowded, cleaning can sometimes be difficult. Other times people have impacted teeth that are in a dangerous location. Orthodontic treatment can help get things where they need to be. In addition to the health benefits, braces can help give you the smile you’ve always wanted.
Your first visit to the orthodontist will generally be a consultation. You’ll get a tour of the office, learn how things work, and talk about your particular oral needs. The orthodontist will probably take a look at your teeth and make a few suggestions for treatment they think would be effective. Of course none of this would be set in stone, he or she will have to make a full evaluation before they can determine exactly what treatments are necessary.
There are different devices used by orthodontists, but the most common are braces. In fact, there are many types of braces as well. Braces used in orthodontics are designed to straighten teeth and position correctly while considering the patient’s bite. Most often, braces are used to fix malocclusions (the misalignment of teeth between the dental arches), over and underbites, crooked teeth, jaw alignment, and various other issues that commonly plague patients. The need might be cosmetic, structural, or both. Many times braces are used in unison with other devices like retainers and spacers that help widen the jaw or otherwise shape teeth.
Braces work by moving the teeth through force. Pressure is placed on the teeth, moving them into the correct position. Standard braces’ basic components consist of brackets, arch wires, ligatures, and a strong bonding agent. First the brackets are bonded to the teeth individually, then an arch wire is run between each bracket on each separate arch. The ligature is used to hold the brackets in place. Orthodontists will often use springs or rubber bands in conjunction with braces. These devices help put even more force in one particular direction. The arch wire will be tightened at regular intervals in an effort to keep constant pressure on the teeth. This will help things move into position over time. This is the standard braces operate, but certain types have methods that are entirely different. To help understand the differences were’ going to review some different types of braces now.
- Traditional Metal Braces - The type of braces we just described. They are typically made of stainless steel and are still the most common form of smile correction treatment. Many adult orthodontic patients are interested in finding alternative treatments, as they do not want a method as obvious as traditional braces.
- Clear Braces – These braces serve as alternative to regular braces primarily for cosmetic reasons. They are usually made of a plastic polymer, but sometimes ceramic is used as well. The function in the same manner as regular braces, so their effectiveness cannot be questioned. It should be noted that the materials used are often more brittle than steel, and this makes removal time-consuming. Clear braces are a great option if you need treatment but want to keep it low-key.
- Gold-Plated Braces – Usually these are just standard stainless steel braces with gold-plating. This is a great solution for patients who are allergic to nickel, which is a component of stainless steel. Other patients even choose gold-plated braces for cosmetic reasons.
- Lingual Braces - Another type of treatment geared towards individuals seeking discretion, lingual braces are sometimes referred to as ‘hidden braces.’ The use the bracket and wire method, but are affixed to the back of the teeth instead of the front. This keeps them hidden from view, but keep in mind there is additional cost when choosing lingual braces.
- Titanium Braces – These braces look and function just like traditional stainless steel, but they are made of high quality titanium instead. They are good for people with nickel allergies (but beware as some braces are made of a titanium alloy that contains nickel), and they are also lighter than regular braces. In fact, due to these benefits, many orthodontists are beginning to use titanium braces as their primary option.
This sums up the most common variations of traditional braces, but it doesn’t exhaust the list of options for a person seeking orthodontic treatment. With traditional braces, the patient typically has to avoid certain types of food and drink. Sticky foods and items with high sugar content should be avoided by the wearer. Another disadvantage to the traditional bracket and wire system is the discomfort associated with the process. While not extremely painful, the periodic tightening of the arch wires does increase pressure greatly, causing a period of discomfort that can last a couple of days.
Because of this, other options have been developed that seek to circumvent the more intrusive aspects of traditional braces. One of these products that’s seen a great deal of success is Invisalign. This smile correction system used clear plastic aligners instead of brackets and wires. Because of this, it’s not as useful for serious cases, especially when there is a need to reposition the jaw. But for crooked teeth, there is no better solution. The cost is about the same as regular braces, and the process is much easier on the patient.
As you can see, an orthodontic patient today has many choices when it comes to treatment. Make sure you take time and go over all of your options carefully with your orthodontist.