Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Beginner's Basics to Braces

How can orthodontics help you?
If your teeth are in poor alignment, you could be facing a functional or cosmetic problem. Orthodontics (braces) can eliminate that problem for you. One of the first things people notice about you is your smile and how your teeth look. You don't have to be a dentist to notice poorly positioned, crooked teeth. In today's culture, crooked teeth are not regarded as attractive or desirable. Most people, when asked, say that they would like to have straight teeth. Straight, white teeth are the cosmetic dental improvements patients most request.

Braces may also be suggested to correct a specific dental problem that only affects one or several teeth. This is not a cosmetic tooth repositioning, but rather a functional tooth movement. Occasionally, in order to properly finish an orthodontic case, the orthodontist may ask the dentist to adjust the enamel of some teeth or bond a resin to some teeth to improve the occlusion (bite alignment) or to enhance cosmetics. This will be discussed with you as soon as it becomes apparent.

When should you see an orthodontist?
The need for orthodontics is best discovered when you are young. A dentist will have a good indication of whether or not your teeth will be straight when he sees you as a child 6 to 8 years of age. Most treatment would not begin until a patient is 8 years old, although in some cases, orthodontics can be started earlier.

It is easier to direct the movement of teeth in a child. Early tooth guidance is a very important phase of orthodontic care, which can take place even though all the permanent teeth are not yet in place. Certain problems are much easier to correct at this stage of a "mixed dentition" of baby and permanent teeth. An average case can last from 18 to 24 months.

While orthodontic therapy is admittedly easier in the child patient, you are never too old to begin orthodontics. The number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment has risen dramatically during the past decade. As long as you have healthy bone support for your teeth, you can have orthodontic therapy. Most adult cases take 18 to 24 months to complete.
What are retainers?
Once braces are removed, it is usually necessary to wear a retainer. After your braces come off, your orthodontist will make a mold of your mouth and produce a set of retainers. This retainer will maintain the new tooth alignment until the teeth have had a chance to become firmly set in their new positions. This retainer may be either removable or fixed in place. Aside from a permanent bonded retainer, there are two other types that most people get.

A Hawley Retainer is made of acrylic and metal. The acrylic goes behind your teeth and up against your upper palate; the metal is in front of your teeth. This is the most reliable refinements that still need to be done to your teeth.

Orthodontic Toothbrush
An Essix Retainer is clear plastic and looks like an Invisalign aligner tray. Many people want this type of retainer, but it has its disadvantages. Many orthodontists feel that because it covers the biting surface of your teeth, they do not "settle" properly after treatment. For this reason, sometimes orthodontists give a patient both types of retainers: an Essix Retainer to wear during the day when they are people-facing, and a Hawley Retainer to wear at night when they are home sleeping.

No matter what type of retainer you get, the most important thing is to wear it exactly as the orthodontist tells you. Most people need to wear their retainers 24/7 for at least 6 months, then switch to wearing it only at night when sleeping. 

How do I keep clean teeth with braces on?
While orthodontic treatment is in the active phase, that is, while the braces are on your teeth, you must be very diligent about keeping your teeth clean. This will be more difficult than and somewhat different from cleaning your teeth without braces. You will be instructed in the use of any cleaning aids needed. These may include dental floss threaders, orthodontic toothbrushes, an oral irrigator to flush out debris, proper brushing habits, fluoride mouth-rinses, and periodontal aids. You must follow your proper oral self-care routine each night to prevent decay, decalcification of the teeth, and gum disease. You also should not use a whitening toothpaste when you have braces. It could cause you to have "two tone" teeth after the brackets are removed. Another thing to remember is that although a device like a Waterpik is great for gum stimulation and dislodging food, it is not a substitute for flossing. You still need to floss daily.

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