What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the field of dentistry that specializes in straightening teeth, correcting the occlusion (bite), and modifying facial growth. In order to achieve facial balance, the teeth, lips, and jaws must be in proper alignment. Orthodontists use corrective appliances such as braces and Invisalign to achieve the goal of creating healthy, functional, and beautiful smiles.

What makes an orthodontist different from a general dentist?

In addition to a general dentist’s training, orthodontists typically spend three more years in clinical and didactic training to master the specialty of orthodontics. The areas of diagnosis and prevention and the treatment of dental and facial irregularities comprise an orthodontist’s area of expertise. Orthodontics demands special skills to control tooth movement and guide facial development. Thus, only about 6% of all dentists achieve the education required to become an orthodontist.

What are the benefits of orthodontic treatment?

Crooked teeth can contribute to a range of chronic problems. Because they are difficult to clean, poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and cavities, gum disease, and eventually tooth loss. In addition, abnormal wearing of teeth, poor chewing, and stress on the bone and gums can be caused by orthodontic malocclusions (poor bite). In cases of severe misalignment of the jaws, chronic headaches and joint pain may develop. Orthodontic treatment can correct these problems and thereby improve oral health.

Moreover, orthodontics can greatly improve a person’s quality of life! A beautiful smile can increase self-esteem and boost confidence. Many satisfied patients experience enhanced social and career success and a new attitude toward life.

What causes orthodontic problems (malocclusions)?

Most malocclusions are genetically inherited from family members. Some examples of inherited problems are crowding, spacing, extra or missing teeth, and growth irregularities of the jaws, teeth, and face.

Some malocclusions can be caused by habits, such as thumb or pacifier sucking, or by trauma to the jaws. Other malocclusions can result from anatomic problems including airway obstruction by tonsils and adenoids, dental disease, or premature loss of baby teeth or permanent teeth. Whether inherited or acquired, a malocclusion can affect not only alignment of the teeth but also facial appearance and development.

When should orthodontic treatment begin?

Continual monitoring of growth and development is crucial to the well-being of a child’s dentition and jaw growth. Therefore, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends an initial screening no later than age 7. Some developmental problems can be treated quickly and simply if caught early. Once the permanent teeth have erupted, or facial growth is complete, correction may be more challenging. If no problems with dento-facial growth are evident, most patients will start orthodontic treatment after their permanent teeth have erupted, usually around age 10-12.

Can adults benefit from orthodontics?

Anyone with healthy teeth and gums can be a great candidate for orthodontic treatment at any age. In fact, over 30% of orthodontic patients in this country are adults. Because adults are no longer growing, their teeth may move more slowly than children's teeth, but the improvement can be just as dramatic as for children. Esthetic treatment choices are popular among adult patients such as Clarity ceramic braces and Invisalign.

How long will orthodontic treatment take?

Length of treatment for braces is typically one to two years. Interceptive, early treatment (usually ages 7-10) may be only a few months. Treatment time ultimately depends on severity of the malocclusion, growth of the mouth and face, and patient cooperation. Commitment to taking care of the appliances and wearing elastics/headgear as instructed are the keys to finishing on time.

Before and After

NoVA Orthodontics
tel 703.691.8388
fax 703.385.7381
10875 Main Street
Suite 106
Fairfax, VA 22030
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