Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry devoted to correcting tooth alignment and bite problems. Orthodontists dentists trained in orthodontics straighten teeth and correct over or underbites. A perfect smile should consist of straight teeth be gap and overlap-free and align top teeth with the bottom. Mouth injuries prolonged pacifier use in infancy thumb-sucking in early childhood and supernumary or impacted teeth can all cause misalignment. In some cases a gap left by a knocked-out tooth creates a space for other teeth to shift into. Most often though orthodontic problems occur simply because the teeth and mouth are growing at different speeds.
Orthodontic appliances such as braces and retainers put pressure on your teeth and/or jaw forcing them into a more aligned form. These appliances are popular for their aesthetic benefits; they can pull teeth together to close gaps and push teeth apart to avoid overlaps. However straightening your teeth improves more than just your smile. Crooked or overlapped teeth can impair chewing (and therefore digestion) and complicate dental hygiene. Poorly aligned teeth can lead to other complications (such as when teeth bite down on the tongue or gums). Jaw irregularities can cause the roof of your mouth to block your nasal cavities leading to breathing difficulties. Orthodontics can prevent all of these potential problems. Finally recent (as-yet-unproven) evidence even suggests that braces might play an indirect role in preventing cardiovascular disease: former braces-wearers learn to care for their teeth thus reducing the amount of oral bacteria; oral bacteria dissolves calcium in the mouth and pushes it into the arteries possibly leading to cardiovascular disease.
Orthodontic treatment can occur at any age although dentists recommend starting the process while the child is still growing as the teeth and jaw will move into place quicker. Most orthodontic patients are in their early teens; however orthodontists recommend interceptive orthodontic treatment wearing a face brow and/or palatal expander to stretch your jaw and/or widen your mouth at the age of eight or nine in time for the permanent teeth to come into place. With interceptive orthodontic treatment once the child's permanent teeth have grown and he or she is ready for braces the mouth has already been shaped in such a way that the teeth can easily fit into place. Interceptive treatment can reduce the braces-wearing period down to 3-6 months in some cases. Successful orthodontic treatment occurs later in life too but in general the earlier you start the less the process hurts.
On average orthodontic treatment tends to take about two to two and a half years. After a few initial assessment appointments the orthodontist will glue metal or clear brackets to your teeth that hold together a wire. This wire is constructed in the shape of your ideal smile then slipped through tubes in the brackets on your misaligned teeth. As the wire pulls itself back into place it gradually pulls your teeth along with it. Expect to see your orthodontist at least once a month to have your braces checked and the wire holding your brackets together tightened. If you have an over or underbite he or she may also assign headgear or a facebow to push or pull your jaw into place. When the braces are removed you will have to wear a retainer for a specified period of time to keep your new smile in place.
Those concerned with the aesthetic side effects of orthodontic treatment can ask about ﾓinvisibleﾔ options. One such option is ceramic brackets which are bigger and slightly costlier but much less noticeable from afar than traditional metal brackets. Another option is lingual braces in which the brackets are placed on the back of your teeth and your treatment is unbeknownst to the world. Another option is Invisalign a series of clear removable mouth trays that pressure your teeth into place. Every two weeks a new tray replaces the last one and begins exerting pressure on a different part of your teeth. Note that Invisalign works better with minor corrections and may not be effective in correcting severe crowding.