May 15 is the World Orthodontic Health Day a perfect time to learn more about orthodontists and the type of care they provide.
Here at Porth, we celebrate orthodontic health everyday. But we want to take an opportunity on this special day to talk more about the importance of orthodontic health. The hope is to answer most of the questions I hear about orthodontics and help you learn more about orthodontic treatment. Ready for some knowledge?.
Who is an orthodontist? How are orthodontists different from dentists?
All orthodontists are dentists, they are required to get a few more years of school and extra specialized training on the science of orthodontics after dental school. Similar to how doctors choose to specialize in different areas, like anesthesiology or pediatrics, dentists can also specialize in a specific area, like orthodontics.
Orthodontics is a dental specialty focused on diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental irregularities and skeletal deformities of the face. Things like malocclusions (bad bites) or crowded teeth are exactly the reasons for which you seek out an orthodontist.
What does an orthodontist do?
An orthodontist is an expert in treatment related to correcting misaligned teeth and bite, which usually implies moving your teeth with braces or plastic aka clear aligners. In short: we move teeth! The problems that stem from misalignment and crooked teeth cause speech impediments, pain and difficulty during chewing, and make maintaining good oral hygiene very challenging.
Aesthetically, these problems often affect your self-confidence, the ability to smile and enjoy life to the fullest! Your orthodontist can address and prevent those issues.
Orthodontic practices can usually treat patients of any age; kids, teenagers and adults. They often communicate and work together with other dental professionals including oral surgeons to provide the best treatment and comprehensive dental care for each individual case.
What are the most common issues for which you would see an Orthodontist?
Many people are referred to get orthodontic care by their general dentist. Some people seek it out themselves, wanting to fix their bite issues and improve the aesthetics of their smile.
To really know whether you need orthodontic care, it’s always better to have a face-to-face consultation with your doctor. But there are some very common issues that you may even be able to identify yourself:
Underbite: the lower teeth are positioned further forward over the upper teeth.
Excess overjet often referred as overbite: the upper teeth are positioned further forward over the lower teeth, which may cause the lower front teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth.
Crossbite: the upper teeth sit right on top or inside of the lower teeth, which interferes with the alignment of your teeth and jaw growth. This could create shift of your jaw when biting down.
Openbite: the front upper and lower front teeth do not overlap, which causes problems with chewing or undesirable habits, like tongue thrusting.
Protrusion: the upper teeth flare out too far forward. Sometime both the upper and lower teeth are pushed out. This bite issue impacts how your teeth and lips look and function.
Crowding: the adult teeth don’t have enough room in the jaw to erupt from the gum in a way that is well-aligned with the existing teeth. In children, orthodontists can create that necessary room with expansion and avoid teeth removal. Depending on the level of crowding, taking out teeth might be the only solution in adults.
Widely spaced teeth or gaps: sometimes it’s genetic (small sized teeth), or caused by missing teeth, and may only be an aesthetic issue.
Misaligned front to the back bite: the bite of your back teeth does not couple and fall onto each other properly, which may cause pain, wear on your teeth, or issues with your dental function and impact your jaw.
Facial and aesthetic issues: sometimes bad bite affects the shape of the whole face, chin and jaw. An orthodontic treatment will help reposition and rearrange your teeth, lips and jaw, give your face a whole new and improved look and create an even smile.
How does an orthodontist move teeth?
Orthodontists have a set of skills, and even tricks, to move teeth. Broadly speaking, we move teeth with fixed or removable appliances. At Porth we firmly believe that the best appliance for you is the one that matches your lifestyle.
Fixed appliances are glued to the teeth. Examples of such appliances are braces, fixed upper jaw expanders. Braces has various parts including: brackets, bands, wires, and ties.
Removable appliances are worn by patients to place force on teeth, resulting in tooth movement. Clear aligners – like the Invisalign appliance – are the most common of these. They should be worn for 16-22 hours daily in order to ensure continuous tooth movement.
Click here to read more about orthodontic treatment options.
What else does an orthodontist do, aside from moving teeth?
Orthodontic care can focus on changing skeletal development of the face. Several orthodontic appliances such as MARA, Herbst, HeadGear, and Facemask are used to redirect skeletal development in growing patients (children and early teens). Skeletal changes in adults often occurs in collaboration between an orthodontist and an oral surgeon.
What happens at an orthodontist appointment?
When you come in for your first consultation the orthodontist conducts a thorough examination of the jaw and teeth. He or she also studies the radiographs taken from your jaw and the side of your head, as well as models of your bite and teeth.
Some orthodontists use a gooey substance to take physical impressions of your bite to create those models. At Porth, we prefer to use the newest 3D scanning, imaging and printing technologies, which makes creating models seamless and as accurate as possible. The 3D models can be used to build appliances later during the treatment. The best part of this is that patients get to skip the old-fashioned process of having “impressions” taken!
After the exam, the orthodontist will recommend the a treatment plan for the patient’s particular condition, often including at least two options. The length and type of treatment ranges depending on the complexity of your case and the your goals for your smile.
So how do I begin to choose an orthodontist that is the best fit for my treatment needs?
We’ve compiled a list of step-by-step guidelines for this topic, click here to read it!
To summarize, look up the orthodontists in your area. Check out their websites and contact the ones that seem to provide what you’re looking for. You may also consult with your dentist for a referral to a practice they work with. Contact the practice and find out more about scheduling a consultation.
Some practices offer free or low-cost initial consultations, which helps gather information and “shop around” before making a decision. Before you leave your first consultation, you should get the estimated length of the treatment, the anticipated outcome, an estimate of the treatment cost, and, preferably, a proposed payment plan.
The right clinic for you has everything to do with the personality and background of the orthodontist, how much information you get at your consultation, how good you feel when you’re there, the customer service and the communication they provide, and whether they are willing to work with your individual needs.
Without a doubt, the cost of treatment is one the top factors that you should consider selecting the right clinic. Nonetheless, proximity to your home, school, or work is probably the second most important factor. At Porth, we have patients that commute a long way to see us, and I am thrilled about it, but driving 30-40 minutes every 6-8 weeks should really be worth it.