Orthodontic treatment to correct abnormalities in tooth position, is highly recommended for curing or preventing functional problems caused by malocclusion. Related problems include chewing and digestive problems, TMJ disorder, speech impediments, tooth wear and more. Even if the malocclusion is not so serious to cause dental problems, orthodontic treatment is recommended for cosmetic reasons to improve the person’s appearance and self-esteem.
Orthodontic problems are usually more easily corrected if dental braces are placed early after the eruption of permanent teeth up to adolescence. The orthodontist will evaluate each individual case and decide if and when to start orthodontic treatment or the type of braces to be used, but it is very important that he/she is consulted before the malocclusion problems cause any damage to teeth.
Why You Need Orthodontic Treatment?
Human teeth are rarely perfectly aligned. A mild misalignment of the teeth (malocclusion) causes no medical or functional problems and little cosmetic concern, while a severe malocclusion may cause a number of problems not only functional or health related, but also psychological ones. Cases of severe malocclusion require orthodontic treatment in order to restore proper mouth function, improve dental health or even just restore the patient’s self-esteem.
Dental Problems caused by Malocclusion
Tooth decay and gum disease – brushing and flossing teeth is much more difficult when teeth are crooked, crowded and particularly if they are overlapping. Plaque is easily accumulated in the hard to clean spaces between not properly aligned teeth. Poor oral hygiene due to orthodontic problems can lead to tooth decay and also increases the risk for periodontal (gum) disease and tooth loss. Straight teeth can help in maintaining good oral health as they collect less dental plaque that is easier to clean with regular brushing and flossing.
- Injury to the gums – in some severe cases of overlapping teeth, a misaligned tooth may reach to the gums of the opposing jaw and cause soft tissue injury.
- Fractured teeth – protruding upper front teeth are more likely to be broken or cracked in an accident.
- Wear and tear – when teeth are misaligned the grinding forces of chewing are not evenly distributed to the chewing surfaces of all teeth. For this reason, orthodontic problems are related to abnormal wear of tooth surfaces. Usually, the back teeth are more affected.
- TMJD syndrome – malocclusion may put the facial muscles and the jaw joints under increased stress leading to a condition with symptoms of intense pain in the face or neck, chronic headaches and unusual clicking or grinding noises when the jaw opens and closes. This condition is called temporomandibular joint disorder syndrome (TMJD).
- Chewing and digestive problems – Bad bite problems, especially those caused by jaw misalignment, can prohibit proper chewing and grinding of food. Partially chewed food can cause chronic digestive problems or even nutritional deficiencies.
- Speech impediments – Misaligned teeth or jaws can interfere with proper pronouncing of sounds like ‘s’, ‘r’, ‘t’ or ‘z’ where correct positioning of the tongue in relation with teeth is important. Such speech difficulties can be corrected through orthodontic treatment.
- Snoring and breathing problems – improper jaw positioning may cause snoring or breathing problems during sleep (a condition called sleep apnea).
- Self-confidence – an unattractive smile can seriously affect the person’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Many people with orthodontic problems avoid to smile or feel uncomfortable when they speak.
Unlike strictly cosmetic procedures, orthodontic care can also benefit long-term dental health. Orthodontic treatment can not only improve appearance and build self-confidence but will also improve dental health and will help in the prevention of dental and general health problems.
The positive effects of an orthodontic treatment are so significant in the modern world, that many adults are now going back to the orthodontist for braces in order to correct malocclusion problems.
Signs of Orthodontic Problems
Parents should pay attention for any signs and symptoms that might indicate the existence of an orthodontic problem. Children with some type of malocclusion problem (teeth misalignment) usually have some of the following symptoms:
- Crowded, crooked, misplaced or abnormally aligned teeth
- Teeth that meet abnormally or not at all with the teeth of the other jaw
- Difficulty in chewing food or biting
- Mouth breathing
- Biting the cheek or roof of the mouth
- Speech difficulties, trouble saying certain words.
- Pain in the facial muscles or jaws that shift or make sounds
- Abnormal appearance of the face
During regular dental visits, the dentist will typically check the child’s mouth for any signs of developing malocclusion. You should inform your family or pediatric dentist about any oral habits (such as thumb-sucking), difficulties with speech, chewing, or any other of the malocclusion symptoms described above. Your dentist will then recommend an orthodontic evaluation if necessary.
Early orthodontic diagnosis can make treatment much easier and reduce the cost for dental braces. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a checkup with an orthodontist by age 7.
Orthodontic Evaluation and Diagnosis
Orthodontic evaluation is done by orthodontists, dentists who have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of malocclusions (teeth misalignments). During the initial orthodontic evaluation the orthodontist first makes a visual inspection of teeth and mouth. Learn how to find an orthodontist.
If the orthodontist finds any signs of malocclusion, another appointment is scheduled where x-rays, photos, and impressions are taken. These diagnostic records provide the necessary information to analyze the orthodontic problems, complete the diagnosis and determine the proper orthodontic treatment plan.
The steps of an orthodontic evaluation include:
- Oral, facial and functional examination to determine:
• the health status of teeth and gums.
• Growth asymmetries between teeth and jaws
• Placement of the teeth in the jawbone.
• Fit between the upper and lower teeth.
- Jaw joint function. Panoramic and profile X-rays of the mouth, to check the jawbone and teeth and to identify:
• The position of not yet erupted permanent teeth in relation to the primary teeth.
• Any missing teeth or teeth that are blocked and unable to come in properly (impacted).
• The root structure of the teeth.
• The relative position of teeth in the jaw bone.
• Any problems with the temporomandibular joints
- Intraoral and facial photographs. Facial photographs and intra-oral photographs are taken to help the orthodontist evaluate facial proportions and facial aesthetics.
- Impressions of the teeth and bite. Plaster impressions of the upper and lower jaws are used to develop models for closer examination of the teeth and how the upper and lower teeth relate to each other.
Orthodontic Treatment Planning
Orthodontic treatment planning is based in:
- defining the characteristics of malocclusion and dentofacial deformity
- determining the nature of the orthodontic problem
- designing a treatment plan based on the specific patient’s needs
- deciding the orthodontic appliances that will be used to correct the problems
- estimating the time that will be required for the treatment
- Deciding on the most appropriate age that orthodontic treatment should start.