Orthodontic Treatment In Springfield, PA
What a difference straight teeth can make! A great-looking smile can boost your self-confidence and have a positive impact on social and professional opportunities. Orthodontic treatment is the original smile makeover tool — and you will be happy to know that you’re never too old to take advantage of it. But it isn’t all about looks: Properly aligned teeth help you to bite, chew and even speak more effectively. They are also easier to clean, which helps keep your mouth free of tooth decay and gum disease.
The amazing thing about orthodontics is that it harnesses the body’s natural ability to remodel its own tissue. With the application of light, constant force, orthodontic appliances gently reshape bone and move teeth into better positions. Some examples of these appliances are traditional metal braces, inconspicuous clear or tooth-colored braces, and clear aligners, an option for adults and teens.
Common Orthodontic Problems
Orthodontic problems can affect both children and adults — even those who wore braces when they were young. That’s because teeth are more mobile than you might think. In fact, teeth move very gradually all the time in response to the normal forces of biting and chewing. But the teeth can also be pushed out of proper alignment when, for example, young children develop unhealthy habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. These and other orthodontic problems usually become apparent around age 7, when the permanent teeth have started to come in. That’s why an orthodontic evaluation is recommended for all kids at this age.
Adults often see their teeth begin to crowd toward the center of the mouth. Your bite may also shift into poor alignment due to a missing tooth. But it’s good to know that no matter what your age, orthodontic treatment is available for all of the common orthodontic problems listed below — provided your teeth and gums are healthy. It’s also important to remember that wearing a retainer after any orthodontic treatment will help preserve the results for as long as possible.
Abnormal eruption is when a tooth emerges through the gum in the wrong place. If the tooth is blocked from growing in fully (a situation called impaction), a minor oral surgical procedure may be required to uncover the tooth before orthodontic treatment begins.
Crossbite is when one or more of the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth rather than outside. This is usually related to misalignment of the upper and lower jaws. In a child who is still growing, widening the upper jaw with an orthodontic appliance called a palatal expander may solve the problem.
Crowding results from a lack of space for the teeth to fit normally within the jaws, either because the teeth are too big or the jaws are too small. Possible solutions may include removing some teeth and/or making more room in the jaws with a palatal expander or through a surgical procedure.
Excessive spacing may result when one or more teeth fail to grow in, are lost to trauma or disease, or there is a discrepancy between jaw size and tooth size. It’s important to close the gaps because excessive space allows nearby teeth to shift out of position.
Open bite occurs when the upper and lower front teeth do not come together when biting, resulting in an open space between the two. This is often the result of tongue thrusting (also called infantile swallowing pattern) and/or prolonged thumb sucking.
Overjet (protrusion) is when the upper front teeth extend too far forward or the lower teeth don’t extend far enough forward. This may be related to genetics, improper jaw development, missing lower teeth and/or improper alignment of molars. Thumb sucking or tongue thrusting can exacerbate the problem.
Underbite occurs when the lower front teeth extend past the upper front teeth. It can be caused by overgrowth of the lower jaw and/or undergrowth of the upper jaw. Depending on the severity, treatment may involve conventional orthodontics and/or jaw (orthognathic) surgery.
Orthodontics for Children
There are several ways that kids can benefit from seeing an orthodontist at an early age. But it’s important to recognize that early evaluation isn’t necessarily followed by early treatment; in most cases, if orthodontic work is needed, we simply monitor your child’s growth patterns until we see that it’s time for treatment to begin. This gives us an opportunity to get the best results in the most efficient way, and to help prevent future problems.
Although every child’s development is different, in most kids the first adult molars have typically started to emerge by around age six. This, along with other developmental markers, lets us get a handle on the basic alignment of the teeth, from front to back and side to side. It may also be possible at this point to determine whether there is adequate room in the mouth for all of the permanent teeth — and, if not, to take action.
When Earlier Is Better
One is severe crossbite, a condition where many or all of the upper teeth close inside the lower teeth. To treat this problem, a device called a palatal expander can be used, which gradually and painlessly widens the upper jaw; it’s especially effective when the jaw itself hasn’t fully developed. If we wait too long, a more complicated treatment — or even oral surgery — might be required to correct the problem.
Another condition that may benefit from early treatment is severe crowding. This occurs when the jaws are too small to accommodate all of the permanent teeth. Either palatal expansion or tooth extraction may be recommended at this point, to help the adult teeth erupt (emerge from below the gums) properly. Even if braces are required later, the treatment time will likely be shorter and less complicated.
Early intervention may also be helpful in resolving several other problems. Protruding teeth, especially in front, can be prone to chipping and fractures; they may also lead to problems with a child’s self-image. A severe underbite, caused by the lower jaw growing much larger than the upper jaw, can result in serious bite problems. Orthodontic appliances, including braces and headgear, can be successfully used to correct these problems at this stage, when the child’s development is in full swing, thereby increasing the chances that surgery can be avoided.
Correcting Bad Habits
The sucking reflex is natural in early childhood; it usually disappears between ages 2 and 4. But if it persists much later, the pressure of the digit on the front teeth and the upper jaw can actually cause the teeth to move apart and the jaws to change shape. This can lead to the orthodontic problem called “open bite,” and may impair speech. An open bite can also be caused by the force of the tongue pushing forward against the teeth (tongue thrusting).
Mouth breathing — an abnormal breathing pattern in which the mouth always remains open, passing air directly to the lungs — is related to alterations in the muscular function of the tongue and face. It may cause the upper and lower jaw to grow abnormally, which can lead to serious orthodontic problems. Although mouth breathing may start from a physical difficulty, it can become a habitual action that’s hard to break.
Various orthodontic treatments are available to help correct these parafunctional habits — and the sooner they’re taken care of, the less damage they may cause. But these potential problems aren’t always easy to recognize. That’s one more reason why you should bring your child in for an early orthodontic screening.
Adolescent Orthodontic Care
There are several good reasons why adolescence is the optimal time for orthodontic treatment, though occasionally even earlier intervention is called for. One has to do with the development of the teeth: There’s no set timetable for every kid, but generally by the age of 11-13 the deciduous (baby) teeth have all been lost, and the permanent ones have largely come in. This is the time when we can go to work correcting the problems that cause a bad bite (malocclusion), improper tooth spacing or poor alignment.
There’s even a social element to getting orthodontic treatment in adolescence. If you need braces, you’re not alone! Chances are you’ll see some of your classmates in our office, and you may even make new friends as you go through the process together. When it’s done, you’ll have a smile that you can really be proud of, and benefits that will last your whole life.
Orthodontic Treatment for Adults
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age — and in older patients, compliance isn’t usually an issue. You are never too old for orthodontic treatment. Plus, with the growing availability of clear aligners or translucent ceramic brackets, it’s getting harder to tell whether or not you’re wearing orthodontic appliances. So if you worry that metal braces might clash with your professional image, be sure to ask about less-visible alternatives. Of course, it isn’t just about looks. Well-aligned teeth are easier to clean and maintain, and less subject to abnormal wear. A better bite keeps you from having trouble eating and speaking, and helps your teeth stay healthy — and healthy teeth can last a lifetime. So why delay getting orthodontic treatment?
The days of having braces tightened are over. The Damon® System uses tie-less brackets that reduce the pressure on your teeth, allowing them to move more comfortably to their correct positions. The innovative approach to orthodontics ensures greater comfort throughout treatment.
Check out our in-depth article here for more information on the Damon® System braces.
Elastics (Rubber Bands) in Orthodontic Treatment
Important Things to Remember About Rubber Bands
The aligners are comfortable to wear. Treatment is convenient. You will visit the office every four to six weeks so Dr. Cook and Dr. Gutsche can evaluate your treatment progress and provide you with new aligners. You can keep eating your favorite foods during treatment. Simply brush and floss as normal to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Certain orthodontic problems in teens can be successfully treated using the Invisalign Teen® system.
Clear aligners for adults have been available for over a decade, but until recently they weren’t recommended for teens in most cases. Why not? Chiefly, for two reasons: It was thought that
teens wouldn’t always wear them for the recommended 22 hours per day; also, since many teens have some permanent teeth still erupting (emerging from below the gums), the precisely planned movement of the teeth might be disturbed.
Luckily, technology has come to the rescue. The first problem is addressed by “compliance indicators” located on the aligners themselves. These colored dots fade over time as the aligners are worn in the mouth, showing whether or not you’ve followed the plan. To solve the second problem, aligners made especially for teens come with “eruption tabs” built in; they are designed to hold space for teeth that have not yet fully erupted.
Today, more people than ever — both adults and teens — are finding that clear aligners suit their needs best. Are you one of them? Why not come into our office and ask whether clear aligners could work for you.
Check out our article here for more about Invisalign clear aligners!
Orthodontics and Surgery
A Team Approach
Several months of orthodontic treatment is often necessary before surgery, to align the upper and lower teeth in preparation for the procedure. The surgery itself is generally performed under general anesthesia in a hospital, an ambulatory surgical center, or an in-office operating suite. Following a recovery period, a second phase of orthodontic treatment may be needed to make minor adjustments and ensure the stability of the re-aligned bite. The total treatment period, including pre- and post-operative orthodontics and surgery, may be 1–3 years.
Evaluating a Surgical Solution
Because this type of surgery makes permanent changes to the jaws, it isn’t suitable for young people whose bones are still growing; however, for adults and some teens, corrective jaw surgery can bring about many positive changes in oral function and appearance that couldn’t otherwise be achieved.