Orthodontics help to correct teeth alignment, enhance appropriate tooth growth and usage, and boost confidence with a straighter, healthier smile.
Orthodontic treatments include metal braces, ceramic braces, lingual braces, clear aligners, orthodontic plates and retainers. Although some people believe that braces are only for teenagers, orthodontic treatments can improve the dental health of individuals of all ages.
Types of orthodontic treatments
Dental braces are not what they used to be. A variety of new techniques and equipment have been developed to enhance the patient's experience and shorten treatment times.
There are a wide variety of orthodontic treatments available, and the correct treatment depends largely on the individual needs of the patient.
Some treatments, such as orthodontic plates, are best for young children whose teeth and jaws are still growing, while treatments with low visibility, such as Invisalign®, may be ideal for adults.
Some of the most common orthodontic treatments include:
Fixed metal braces
‘Traditional’ fixed or orthodontic braces are high-quality metal brackets that are attached to each tooth. These brackets are then connected by a special type of wire, which slowly pulls the teeth into alignment.
Over time, your orthodontist will make a series of adjustments to straighten the teeth to achieve the desired outcome. Each time you go in for an adjustment, you get to choose your braces colours, as your orthodontist will switch the bands on the brackets that hold the wire in place, so you can opt for something low-key, or let your personality shine through.
More contemporary braces are much more streamlined than traditional braces, and modern technology allows for the brackets to be discreetly matched to your tooth enamel.
What can braces help with?
Some common issues that orthodontists may improve with fixed braces include:
- Crowded teeth
- Crooked teeth
- Underbites, overbites and crossbites
- Limited breathing
- Unevenly spaced teeth
- Gapped teeth
The timeline for fixed braces
Fixed braces might only be required for as little as six months, or up to 24 months. The length of time required will depend on the complexity of the treatment. In most cases, patients will wear fixed braces between 12-18 months.
Not following your orthodontist’s instructions may result in you needing to wear braces for longer than originally planned, so it is important to do as they say.
After your braces have been removed, you may be required to have a permanent retainer (an unobtrusive metal wire) fitted onto the inner side of your teeth to help keep them from moving back into their original positions.
Your orthodontist may also create a custom removable retainer that you will wear when you’re not eating. If you have a removable retainer, you will slowly wear it less and less over time until your orthodontist advises that you can stop wearing it completely.
Like metal braces, ceramic braces use wires and brackets; however, the brackets are a clear or off-white ceramic to disguise the appearance of the braces.
Ceramic is also smoother than metal, which can make this type of braces more comfortable to wear.
Lingual braces use the same metal brackets and wires as metal braces, but on the inner surface of the patient's teeth so that they can't be seen.
As well as being essentially invisible to others, lingual braces can offer benefits for your teeth. With braces that are attached to the front of your teeth, there is a risk of decalcification (the removal of calcium), however the backs of the teeth are more robust, so the risk is lower at the back.
Clear aligners are one of the most sought-after types of orthodontic treatment for adults.
Most commonly known by the manufacturer's name, such as Invisalign® or ClearCorrect, aligners are created using advanced technology. This includes a series of aligners custom-made for your mouth that apply targeted pressure to your teeth, which gradually moves them into alignment as you move through your personal set of aligners.
There are pros and cons to braces vs Invisalign®, so talk to your orthodontist about which one is right for you.
What are the benefits of clear aligner treatment?
Clear aligners have become extremely popular due to their subtle appearance. They are transparent in colour, almost invisible, and custom-made to fit snugly on your teeth.
If you're not completely happy with your smile or your dentist recommends orthodontic treatment for your oral health, but you don't want to have metal braces, clear aligners might be the perfect option for you.
Straighter teeth don't just look better, they work better as well - badly aligned teeth can interfere with bite function, wear out faster, and are more prone to cavities.
There are many advantages to using clear aligners over traditional braces:
- They are almost invisible and have a discreet appearance.
- They're removable, so you can take them out for eating, drinking, and photos.
- They are easy to clean when you take them out.
- They're more comfortable as they are custom-made to fit your mouth.
- They can usually straighten your teeth in a shorter amount of time.
Orthodontic plates and retainers
For young children who have particular problems with tooth or jaw alignment, orthodontic plates can be used to carefully adjust the growth of the jawbone and arrange the teeth.
An orthodontic plate, or retainer, consists of plastic or wire that is shaped to fit around the top or bottom teeth to hold them in place or gently guide them into the desired position.
Judicious use of orthodontic plates at a young age can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for braces later in life. Retainers are often used after treatment with braces to ensure that the teeth remain in position.
Who can benefit from an orthodontic treatment?
There are a wide variety of conditions that can be improved through the use of orthodontic treatment. Although age is a consideration, it is not the only factor in the orthodontist's choice of treatment.
Conditions that may require the use of orthodontic treatments include:
- Poor alignment of top and bottom molars that complicate or prevent chewing.
- A crossbite, in which the upper teeth rest behind the lower teeth.
- A deep bite or overbite, in which the upper front teeth cover the front of the lower front teeth.
- An open bite, in which the front teeth do not touch at all when biting.
- Teeth that are misaligned, angled, crowded, or spaced too far apart.
- Jaw / joint pain (TMD) and headaches due to clenching and misaligned teeth.
- Tooth decay, bone loss, and excessive wear on the surface of the teeth due to poor alignment.
To determine the best treatment option for your needs, your dentist will conduct a comprehensive examination and assessment of your dental condition. If your condition can't be treated by a general dentist, you will receive a referral to a specialist.
Braces are the most commonly used orthodontic treatment for the realignment and repositioning of teeth. Not only do braces improve your smile and confidence, but they can also help to cure or mitigate serious issues with jaw alignment and development.
Additionally, braces can be used to adjust your tooth alignment at any age. Straight teeth will reduce unwanted wear and stress on your teeth and gums, and further prevent strain and headaches associated with jaw misalignment.
Orthodontic care and maintenance
When you wear braces, aligners, or retainers, it will be necessary to adjust your eating habits to prevent damage to both the hardware and your teeth.
We recommend avoiding hard foods and sticky sweets that can break or pull your braces from your teeth such as gum, toffee, popcorn, nuts, hard biscuits, etc. You should also avoid biting into foods with your front teeth. Rather, cut foods into manageable pieces that you can chew with your back teeth.
Braces can trap food in your mouth after you eat, so be sure to brush and floss after every meal. Continue to floss and brush your teeth regularly, but be sure to use the special brushes and flossing tools recommended (and typically provided) by your orthodontist.
Specialised floss brushes and mouthwash are particularly useful for cleaning out braces after a meal. Carry a small cleaning kit with you to school or work, so you have the supplies you need on hand to keep your braces and teeth in ideal condition.
National Dental Care is one of the top providers of quality dental and orthodontic care in Australia. With over 60 practices across Australia, we attract the top dental experts through dedicated collaboration, mentorship, training, and support.
To learn more about the best orthodontic services for you, find your nearest dental practice and get in touch today.