If you or your kids have been referred to an orthodontist for the first time, you may have all sorts of questions about what this field of medicine involves, who it can help, and what kinds of tooth-straightening options you might have. Here are three not-so-obvious facts about orthodontics that may influence your decision to go ahead and make that appointment.
1. It's Not Just for Kids
It may surprise you to learn that adults are often prime candidates for orthodontic evaluation and treatment. That's because there's no age limit on shifting crooked teeth into a newer, straighter alignment as long as the teeth and gums are free of disease. The fact that gum disease and tooth decay become increasingly likely with age actually points to the desirability of getting those misaligned teeth fixed. The straighter the teeth are, the easier it is to brush and floss them, ensuring a better state of overall dental health.
Another common problem among stressed-out adult patients is bruxism, or tooth grinding. This chronic jaw tension is not only a key factor in TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), but it also wears down the tooth surfaces, greatly aggravating jaw and tooth misalignment. Dentist typically treat this condition, if it goes unchecked long enough the job may fall to your orthodontist, who can correct not only the condition but also any associated misalignment. For instance, you might be instructed to wear a dental mouthpiece or splint to bed at night, since bruxism often occurs during sleep.
2. Regular Braces Aren't the Only Treatment Option
When many people think of orthodontic treatment, they automatically envision braces for crooked teeth. While traditional braces remain a highly effective option for dental misalignment, however, they're far from the only one. If you don't like the idea of shiny, obvious metal braces, you may be able to get the same straightening action from lingual braces. These braces work much like traditional braces, but they're attached to the inner surfaces of the teeth, making them much less obvious. Or you could go in the other direction by turning your braces into a fashion statement by choosing color-coordinated designs. There are even white "invisible" braces and clear plastic aligners that make you look like you're not wearing braces at all.
Some orthodontic conditions call for a different approach altogether. For example, if you have severe overcrowding of teeth, your orthodontist might recommend some strategic extractions instead. This creates a more normal look, aids in chewing and speaking, and helps protect the roots and alignment of the remaining teeth. A severely misaligned jaw might require surgery to raise it, lower it, or move it forward or backward. This improves jaw function and appearance while also allowing the top and bottom teeth to meet normally.
3. The Earlier You Start, the Less It Will Cost
While it's true that adults can invest on orthodontic correction to enjoy a nicer smile at practically any stage of life, that doesn't mean you should intentionally put off that treatment any longer any necessary. Tooth irregularities and bite problems tend to make their first appearance early in life, growing progressively worse as the child matures. If you have small children, make sure they receive an orthodontic evaluation by the age of 7. The earlier the problem is caught, the smaller it is likely to be, and the less treatment will be required to correct it -- potentially saving you a great deal of money down the road.
There's no need for either you or your children to suffer the lasting effects of crooked, overcrowded teeth, misaligned jaws, or other troublesome oral problems. Schedule an initial consultation with a trusted orthodontist and ask every question you can think of. The answers may both surprise and reassure you!