Orthodontics is the field in dentistry that deals with straightening teeth. Orthodontics has come a long way in the last several decades and there are more options than ever to do this.
For children with certain types of dental features, they should be seen by an orthodontist early on (around age 7 or 8). The most common type of feature is when they have what is called a posterior crossbite. The top teeth end up being very narrow and sit on the inside of the lower teeth instead of the outside. A palatal expander is used to slowly increase the width of their top arch of teeth. If you wait too long, the bones of the palate fuse and can no longer be expanded easily.
Comprehensive Orthodontics with Braces
Comprehensive orthodontics with braces is what is most people think of when they first think of orthodontics. The goal in comprehensive orthodontics is to align all the teeth, front and back, into the best alignment for function and esthetics. Brackets are bonded to all your teeth and attached with various types of wires to accomplish the proper movements. These types of cases usually end up taking anywhere from 1-3 years on average.
Instead of those metal brackets bonded to the front of your teeth, they are bonded to the back of your teeth. This gives your orthodontist a bit more flexibility in how to move your teeth while still maintaining a nice (non-braces) smile. The biggest challenge with these is learning how to speak regularly again which can take several weeks. They also have the tendency to irritate your tongue quite a bit more than traditional braces.
Invisalign is an orthodontic system that uses multiple sets of clear plastic aligners to slowly move your teeth to the correct position. Invisalign can be used to do comprehensive orthodontics or to accomplish limited tooth movement goals. It has been getting much better over the years and can now be used to correct most orthodontic issues.
Cosmetic orthodontics usually have more limited goals than comprehensive orthodontics. The goal is to align and front teeth to create a nice smile without altering the back teeth in any way. This allows the treatment time to be much shorter, usually on the order of 6-9 months. Several companies train dentists in this under the names Six Month Smiles and Powerprox Six Month Braces.
There are a lot of different options out there for appliances that are used to correct minor issues with tooth spacing. Spring retainers and Inman Aligners are some of the more common ones that are generally used to correct minor rotations and crowding in your front teeth.
In some rare cases the teeth can’t be aligned by simply moving them. The entire upper or lower jaw have to be repositioned surgically and then braces completed. Recovery from these types of surgery takes a significant amount of time. After surgery your jaw is wired shut for approximately 6 weeks.
At Home Orthodontics
One of the newest developments in orthodontics is an Invisalign style system that you can order from home. You take your own impressions and pictures and they send you back the aligners. The company is known as Smile Direct Club. We have a specific page with more information on this product.