At what age can people have orthodontic treatment?
The biological process involved in moving teeth is the same at any
age. Children and adults can both benefit from orthodontics. It is
recommended that every child receive an orthodontic evaluation by age
seven. Treatment may take a little longer for adults. Because an adult's
facial bones are no longer growing, certain corrections may not be
accomplished with braces alone.
What causes orthodontic problems?
An orthodontic problem is called a malocclusion, meaning "bad
bite." Some examples of causes of malocclusion are crowded teeth,
extra teeth, missing teeth or jaws that are out of alignment. Most
malocclusions are inherited, although some can be acquired. Acquired
malocclusions can be caused by accidents, early or late loss of baby
teeth, or sucking of the thumb or fingers for a prolonged period of
How are orthodontic problems corrected?
First, pretreatment records are made. These records are important
tools for the dentist to use in making an accurate diagnosis. They
include medical/dental history, clinical examination, plaster study
models of teeth, photos of your face and teeth and x-rays of your mouth
and head. This information will be used to decide on the best treatment.
A custom treatment plan is outlined for each patient. The specific
treatment appliance best suited to correct the patient's orthodontic
problem is constructed. There are a variety of different orthodontic
appliances that may be used.
When the orthodontic appliances are in place, this is considered the
"active treatment" phase. Appliances are adjusted periodically
so that the teeth are moved correctly and efficiently.
The time required for orthodontic treatment varies from person to
person. An important factor in how long a patient wears braces is how
well the patient cooperates during treatment — for example, by
following instructions to wear rubber bands or head gear.
After active treatment is completed, the "retention" phase
begins. A patient will need to wear a retainer so that the teeth stay in
their new positions. For severe orthodontic problems, surgery may be
Are there less noticeable braces?
Today's braces are generally less noticeable than those of the past.
Brackets, the part of the braces that hold the wires, are bonded to the
front of the teeth. These brackets can be metal, clear, or
tooth-colored. Wires that are used for braces today are also less
noticeable. In some cases, brackets may be put on the back of the teeth
(lingual appliances). Modern wires are also less noticeable than their
predecessors. Today's wires are made of "space age" materials
that exert a steady, gentle pressure on the teeth, making the
tooth-moving process faster and more comfortable for patients.
How long will treatment take?
Although the average treatment time is about 24 months, this varies
with individual patients. Usually, adult treatment takes a little longer
than a child's treatment. Other things to keep in mind are the severity
of the problem, the health of the teeth, gums and supporting bone and
how closely the patient follows instructions. While orthodontic
treatment requires a time commitment, most people feel the benefits are
well worth the time invested.