Orthodontics is the dental branch that specializes in the diagnosis, guidance, and correction of bad bites. The American Academy of Orthodontics (AAO) defines orthodontia (or dentofacial orthopedics) as the area of dentistry that prevents, diagnoses, and treats dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontic treatments go beyond cosmetics as it addresses serious dental health concerns. Having a good bite in essential in daily activities such as chewing, biting, and speaking. It also reduces the risk for tooth decay and gum diseases since crooked or misaligned teeth may be harder to clean.
If your child’s teeth are crowded, protruding, or spaced too far apart, an orthodontic correction may be advised. Orthodontic misalignment (called malocclusion) can signal various dental conditions such as jaw growth problems, congenitally missing or extra teeth, crowded or protruded teeth, and teeth spacing problems. There are also instances when a child experiences premature loss of baby teeth or having his or her baby teeth longer than expected. Thumb or finger sucking, injury, and other certain types of dental disease can likewise require pediatric orthodontic treatment.
An orthodontic device or orthodontic appliance can be fixed or removable. A fixed orthodontic appliance may be more familiar to us since we usually see children or teenagers wearing such to treat orthodontic problems. A fixed appliance offers precision in treating a malocclusion. If your child has a fixed appliance, he or she can still eat normally with a few foods and drink exceptions such as hard and sticky foods like candies, gums, etc. Here are some examples of fixed orthodontic appliances:
Braces: Braces are made up of wires, brackets, and bands. The bands are secured and fixed around your child’s teeth. The bands serve as anchors for the appliance while the brackets are the ones that are connected to the front of the teeth. The arch-shaped wires that are fixed to the bands pass through the brackets. As the arch-shaped wire is tightened, tension is applied to the teeth. Because of this tension, teeth move into their proper position. Your child will need to regularly visit the dentist, usually every month, for adjustment or tightening of the braces and will need to be worn for at least several months up to a few years.
Fixed-space Maintainers: A space maintainer is utilized when a child loses a primary tooth and there is a need to stop the two teeth at either side from moving into the area previously housing the baby tooth until the permanent tooth emerges. A band is securely attached to a tooth next to space and a wire is placed from the band to the other tooth.
Special fixed appliances: A special fixed appliance can aid in a child’s habitual thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. However, they are uncomfortable to wear, particularly when eating. Dentists do not recommend this appliance unless necessary and needed to fix the said orthodontic problem.
The second type is the removable orthodontic appliance. Generally, a removable appliance is used to treat minor orthodontic problems like correcting slightly crooked or protruding teeth. In some cases, a removable appliance is utilized to address orthodontic problems caused by thumb sucking or pacifier use. The orthodontic appliance should always be worn except when cleaning it, and while eating or flossing. Below are some examples of the removable appliance.
Retainers: Retainers are removable appliances utilized after a major orthodontic treatment to prevent the teeth from moving back to their original position. Some retainers, when modified, may also be used to stop children from thumb sucking. There are also permanent retainers which are bonded or glued at the back of the teeth. This kind of retainer is recommended for lower front teeth due to the likelihood of the teeth going back to their previous position. In some cases, orthodontists recommend both a fixed retainer on the lower front teeth and the clear plastic aligner-type over the entire lower arch. Removable retainers can be made out of metal and acrylic which is fitted on the roof of the mouth while the wire surrounds the front teeth. A removable retainer can also be made out of clear plastic which is fitted over the teeth and looks like an aligner.
Aligners: Aligners are said to be an alternative to braces used by adults. Aligners are cosmetically pleasing as they are not noticeable by other people. Aligners can be easily removed and put back. Generally, an aligner is used for around 2 to 3 weeks. After that, it is replaced with a new, tighter one.
Headgear: This removable appliance is a strap that is placed around the head and attached to a metal wire in the face bow in front. A headgear is designed to slow down the growth of the upper jaw and keeps the back teeth in position while the front teeth are pulled back.
Splints, or jaw repositioning appliances: Splints are commonly used for the temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition that can cause pain and dysfunction in the muscles that are involved in jaw movement. Splints are placed to assist either the top or lower jaw to close properly.
Talk with your child’s dentist or orthodontist to help you make the right choice for you and your child. Remember also that good oral hygiene is necessary before any orthodontic treatment can begin. To achieve the best results following your treatment, abide by the pediatric dentist’s instructions and specific oral hygiene guidelines. Results may not be seen overnight but an orthodontic treatment will help surely your child have a healthier smile.
How can orthodontic treatment help?, Medical News Today w.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249482.php#devices
Orthodontics, MouthHealthy under the American Dental Association https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/orthodontics
Children and Orthodontics, WebMD https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/children-and-orthodontics#1
Early Orthodontics, Colgate https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/cosmetic-dentistry/early-orthodontics