Orthodonist says: Braces can improve looks, oral health

With the school year at an end, a lot of kids are headed to summer camp, but some may also be headed to an orthodontist.

Braces and other orthodontic treatments can be a rite of passage for many children needing to correct “bad bites” or malocclusions, that is, teeth that are crowded or crooked.

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. I urge parents to have their children come in for an orthodontic checkup by age 7 to help catch growth issues in time for ideal correction.

Today, more and more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment, too, to obtain the beautiful, healthy smile they’ve always wanted.

In some cases, your teeth may be straight, but your upper and lower jaws may not meet properly. These jaw or tooth alignment problems may be inherited or could result from injury, early or late tooth loss, or thumb sucking.

In the case of an abnormal bite, your dentist may recommend braces or another orthodontic treatment to straighten out your smile. Correcting the problem can create a nice-looking smile, but, more importantly, orthodontic treatment results in a healthier mouth.

Not correcting an abnormal bite could result in further oral health problems, including:

• Tooth decay.

• Gum disease.

• Tooth loss.

• Affected speech and/or chewing.

• Abnormal wear to tooth enamel.

• Jaw problems.

Straightening your teeth can be accomplished in different ways. The kind of orthodontic treatment recommended depends on a patient’s preference and the options provided by a dentist or orthodontist.

Traditional braces, which realign teeth by applying pressure, usually consist of small brackets cemented to your teeth and connected by a wire. The wire is periodically adjusted to gradually shift your teeth and jaw.

The brackets may be metal or tooth colored and may sometimes be placed behind your teeth. Removable aligners are another option for treating orthodontic problems.

Abnormal bites usually become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12, and orthodontic treatment often begins between ages 8 and 14. Treatment that begins while a child is growing helps produce optimal results.

That doesn’t mean that adults can’t have braces. Healthy teeth can be orthodontically treated at any age.

Treatment plans will vary based on your situation, but most people are in treatment from one to three years. This is followed by wearing a retainer that holds teeth in their new positions.

Today’s braces are more comfortable than ever before. Newer techniques apply a constant, gentle force to move teeth and usually require fewer adjustments and less overall treatment time.

I advise patients to maintain a healthy and balanced diet while they have braces. Eating too many sugary foods with braces can lead to plaque buildup around your brackets that could permanently stain or damage your teeth.

Avoiding foods like popcorn, corn on the cob, sugary chewing gum, whole apples, and other sticky foods is also a good idea.

 

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