Lately, you’ve noticed your young child’s primary teeth don’t appear to be coming in straight. Is it a problem?
The answer to that question is best answered by an early orthodontic evaluation performed by an orthodontist. It’s advisable for a child as young as 7 to undergo such an exam.
While a child’s primary teeth have a short life span of a few years, that doesn’t make them less important than the permanent teeth that replace them. In fact, they’re extremely influential for permanent tooth development — each one serves as a guide for its replacement to erupt in a proper position. A future malocclusion (bad bite) that becomes more apparent later in life would have been well underway years before.
Orthodontists have the training and expertise to spot these emerging problems in their early stages. Early detection can reduce the extent — and costliness — of future orthodontic treatment by introducing preventative or interceptive measures — even while there’s still a mix of primary and permanent teeth in the mouth. For example, a child wearing a simple type of retainer that influences the development of the bite could minimize or even correct a growing malocclusion.
You can also take advantage of opportunities to discover potential orthodontic problems early through a general or pediatric dentist. By having regular dental cleanings and checkups, the dentist might observe early bite development that should be reviewed by an orthodontist. If not, it’s still a good idea to undergo an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7.
Given the stage of jaw and facial structure development, waiting until puberty to focus on orthodontic problems may be too late for some problems — and much more expensive than if caught and treated earlier. Getting ahead of these issues earlier in your child’s dental development will help ensure they’ll have a healthy bite throughout their life.
If you would like more information on early orthodontic monitoring, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Early Orthodontic Evaluation” and “Preventative & Cost Saving Orthodontics.”
Orthodontics can produce an amazing smile transformation. With today’s advanced appliances and techniques even the most difficult malocclusions (bad bites) can be overcome. All of this innovation, however, depends on one basic anatomical fact: though firmly set in the mouth, our teeth can still move.
Teeth are actually held in place by the periodontal ligament, a strong, elastic tissue that attaches to them through tiny collagen fibers on one side of the ligament and to the jawbone with similar fibers on the other side. When pressure is placed against a tooth, the bone on the opposite side of the force begins to dissolve (resorb), allowing the tooth to move. As it moves, new bone is built up behind the tooth, to stabilize it. Orthodontists take advantage of this natural mechanism through orthodontic hardware like braces that applies pressure in the desired direction of movement, while the ligament and bone do the rest.
There is, though, a downside to this process. The teeth, bone and gum tissues can contain a kind of “memory” for the former natural position of the teeth. Over time, the lower front teeth tend to take a gradual migratory movement back towards their original position. Also, as we age the lower front teeth may crowd each other as there is a genetic influence for teeth to move to the midline of the face, causing a pressure that allows the skinny lower front teeth to slip behind each other. As a result of both of these tendencies, corrected teeth may retreat from their new positions.
To stop these tendencies, we use an appliance known as a retainer after braces or other hardware is removed. As the name implies, this appliance “retains” the teeth in their new position. For structural “memory,” the retainer will keep the teeth in their new position until the impulse to return to the old one has faded, about eighteen months. Retainers can also slow or stop the natural genetic influence of movement, but it may mean wearing a retainer for an indefinite period, especially individuals who’ve undergone orthodontic treatment later in life.
The length of time you’ll need to wear a retainer after braces — and what type, whether a removable appliance or one permanently attached — will depend on a number of factors including the type of malocclusion, your individual mouth structure and age. We’ll recommend the best option that ensures the best chance of keeping your teeth in their new position.
If you would like more information on retainers after orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Why Orthodontic Retainers?”
Compared to traditional braces, orthodontic clear aligners seem miraculous in many ways, almost too good to be true. You may be wondering if they really work. The answer is yes — but they are not for everyone.
Clear orthodontic aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that are used to move your teeth and transform your smile without much interference to your daily life. They are removable trays made of a clear plastic material that is essentially invisible.
When using aligners, a sequence of slightly different trays is custom-made to fit over your teeth. You must wear each one 20 hours a day for two weeks before changing to the next in the series. The aligners are computer generated, designed by state-of-the-art techniques based on models and images of your own teeth. They work because slight changes in the sequential aligners gradually shift your teeth. If they are worn consistently, the process takes from six months to two or three years.
Advantages over traditional braces are:
Clear aligners are a good solution for correcting mild to moderately crowded or incorrectly spaced teeth. They are most effective if your back teeth already fit together properly. Clear aligners are usually effective in correcting simpler or tipping movements of teeth in two dimensions. For more complex movements, traditional braces may be required. Clear aligners are usually recommended for adults whose teeth and jaws are fully developed, and not for children.
Traditional braces are fixed brackets attached to the teeth through which narrow, flexible wires are threaded. They may be necessary if your teeth do not meet properly, creating too much overbite or underbite. Closing spaces where teeth are missing, rotating teeth, or other complicated situations probably make you a better candidate for traditional braces.
Each particular situation is unique. To find out if clear aligners are right for you, make an appointment with us for an assessment and diagnosis of your own situation. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”
OK, so you've been getting orthodontic treatment for what seems like a long time, and finally, your braces are about to come off! Now you're home free, right?
Well, almost… but now comes the final part of your treatment: the retention phase. That means you'll need to wear a retainer. Most people find that a retainer is more comfortable than braces — but because it is often removable, there's the temptation to just leave it off. Don't do it! Here are the top five reasons why you should always wear your retainer as instructed:
1) A retainer helps to make your teeth stable in their new positions.
Your teeth aren't rigidly set in stone (or in bone) — instead, they are held in place by a hammock-like set of ligaments, and the bone that surrounds them is somewhat pliable. That's a good thing… because, otherwise, they would be even harder to move! But it means that it will take some time for the bone and ligament around the teeth to re-form and stabilize in its new position. A retainer holds them in position while that is happening.
2) If you don't wear it, your brand-new smile may not stay looking the way it should.
Did you know that your bone and gum tissue have some “memory?” Unfortunately, it's not the kind that could help you on a science quiz — but teeth can “remember” where they used to be located… and, if you leave them alone, they may try and go back there! A major goal of the retainer is to keep your new smile looking great! If you don't wear it, and your teeth shift back, you risk losing all the time (and money) you invested.
3) There are different types of retainers available; one of them might be just right for you.
At one time, all retainers were made of pink plastic and silvery wire, and were removable. That kind is still available, but now you may have a choice of different colors or patterns — you might even be able to customize yours! Another alternative that may be appropriate is a clear retainer that fits over your teeth, making it nearly invisible. In some cases, you can have a thin wire bonded to the inside of the teeth instead of a removable retainer. It doesn't show, and you don't have to worry about taking it out.
4) As time goes on, you'll probably need to wear your retainer less and less.
At first, you'll probably need to wear your retainer all the time, but after a while you may only have to wear it at night — a lot easier to manage! Think of it as a way of easing yourself out of orthodontic treatment — and into a brand-new smile. The retention stage also helps your teeth avoid damage by allowing the process to end slowly and gently.
5) Lots of celebrities wear them.
If we know who, we aren't telling — but let's just say that several young entertainers and a recently married British Prince have worn retainers, or are still wearing them. So, you're in good company!
If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.”
Is there a single orthodontic appliance that can help your child get a wider, better-looking smile, correct problems with the bite, make room in a crowded upper jaw for new teeth to erupt (come in)... and shorten the overall time he or she will need to wear braces? The answer is yes: It's the palatal expander, a device that works with the natural growth patterns of a child's mouth, and offers dramatic results.
What's a palatal expander? Basically, it's a custom-made orthodontic appliance that fits between the rows of back teeth at the top (roof) of the mouth, close to the palate. After it has been put in place, it can be tensioned with a special key. Because it is contained inside the mouth, it's invisible when worn — but its benefits are easy to see.
How does it work? The palatal expander takes advantage of the fact that the left and right halves of a child's upper jaw bone don't completely fuse (knit together) until sometime after puberty. Until that happens, the upper jaw is relatively soft and easy to manipulate. When tension is applied, the palatal expander gently moves the bones apart, just like braces do for teeth. Then new bone tissue naturally fills in the space.
The appliance is tightened daily for a few weeks — while spacing improves dramatically — and then it's left on for several weeks more to stabilize the expansion. The total time a child needs to wear it is generally 3-6 months. After that, a set of braces can be put on if needed. So, what's so great about a palatal expander?
For one thing, the device can correct a crossbite, which occurs when the back top teeth bite inside (instead of outside) the bottom teeth. For another, expanding the upper jaw can relieve the condition known as crowding, which happens when the jaw isn't big enough to accommodate all the teeth. A related situation — impacted teeth — occurs when a tooth that hasn't yet erupted is blocked by another tooth above it. Both these conditions formerly required tooth extraction: an invasive and sometimes complicated procedure. Both can now be remedied by a palatal expander.
But maybe the biggest plus to a youngster — where a month can seem like an age — is the prospect of having to wear braces for less time. And that alone is a good reason to smile.
If you have questions about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Palatal Expanders” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”