Many people get braces or undergo orthodontic treatment because they wish to improve the appearance of their smiles. However, orthodontics is not merely cosmetic. Of course, orthodontics can correct crowded or crooked teeth to enhance the appearance of a smile, but it can also correct such functionality issues as overbite, underbite, incorrect jaw position and even some jaw disorders. Malocclusion, or the condition that exists when the upper and lower teeth do not meet correctly, can also be corrected with orthodontic intervention. So, what are the major types of orthodontic correction, and what can they correct? Here is a brief run-down on what the common forms of orthodontics can, and can't, correct.
Braces are what come to mind when most people think of orthodontics. Braces are a series of brackets that are cemented to the teeth in order to hold wires into place. It is the wires, not the braces, that do the orthodontic work. Braces are often the strongest and most efficient way to achieve repositioning of the teeth.
The most popular form of dental aligners is the Invisalign® system, which consists of a series of clear plastic trays that gradually move teeth into a more pleasing position. While many patients achieve results similar to those achieved with traditional braces with aligners, they are not the right solution for patients who need extensive repositioning or who have seriously crooked teeth.
Space maintainers are often used when a patient loses a baby tooth too early. They hold the place the tooth once filled, preventing surrounding teeth from shifting position so that the permanent teeth underneath have a chance to emerge in the proper place. Without spacers, the permanent teeth could erupt in a crooked fashion or in such a manner as to cause overcrowding. If this occurs, more extensive orthodontic care (like braces) may be needed.
Made from hard plastic and metal wires, the palatal expander is designed to widen the upper arch of the mouth, making more space for teeth to grow into. Expanders are commonly used for children who have not lost all of their baby teeth, between the ages of 8 and 10.
Similar in makeup to expanders, retainers are designed to be worn after braces or other orthodontic treatment to keep teeth in the proper positions. In many cases, retainers only need to be worn at night.
The cost, duration, and extent of orthodontic treatment is different for every patient, and one patient may need to use one or many of the above-listed orthodontic solutions to achieve the desired result. To know which orthodontic treatments are right for you or your child, speak with your dentist or orthodontist.