Orthodontics is the specialty branch of dentistry that focuses entirely on diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is "malocclusion," which literally means "bad bite." The practice of orthodontics requires extensive professional skill in the design, application, and control of corrective appliances (braces) to bring teeth, lips, and jaws into proper alignment and achieve optimum facial balance. This is best accomplished by an orthodontist.
What is an Orthodontist?
Teeth and sometimes faces are permanently changed by orthodontic treatment; therefore it is very important that the treatment be properly done. An orthodontist, like Dr. Davis, is a specialist who has limited his practice only to the treatment of orthodontic problems. Dr. Davis has devoted two years to full-time comprehensive orthodontic training at an accredited University program in addition to four years of dental school and four years of college study. This advanced training included topics such as growth and development, genetics, biomechanics, and anatomy; as well as clinical skill in the design, application and control of braces and removable appliances.
When Should Orthodontic Treatment Begin?
An early orthodontic screening examination allows Dr. Davis to best determine the optimum time for treatment to begin. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends this visit for every child by the age of 8. This does not mean that all children need treatment at this age, but it does allow Dr. Davis to assess each individual case to determine who could benefit from early intervention. In some cases, early intervention can prevent the need for future treatment or at least reduce the complexity of future treatment, reduce the need for extractions and gain a better overall result. Please remember, however, that orthodontic treatment is not only limited to children, with about 1/3 of patients treated by Dr. Davis being adults.
How Does Orthodontic Treatment Work?
Braces use steady, gentle pressure to gradually move teeth into proper position. The brackets that Dr. Davis places on your teeth, and the archwire that connects them, are the main components. Dr. Davis shapes the archwire to move your teeth into your ideal bite. As the wire tries to return to its original shape, it applies pressure to actually shift your teeth into proper position.
What is Phase I & Phase II Treatment?
Phase I is treatment as early as age 7 or 8 years that may involve partial braces to expand space for developing adult teeth, correction of crossbites, overbites, underbites, or harmful habits. Not all children need this interceptive treatment, but a screening exam to determine this is recommended. Phase II is considered later when all the permanent teeth are in place. Phase II involves full braces, which give maximum control over the movement of teeth, whereas plates or "retainers" can only tip teeth in certain directions. The correction of rotated teeth, and any movement of teeth that involves more than simple tipping movements, are best achieved with braces.
What About Adult Treatment?
Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and about a third of the patients treated by Dr. Davis are adults. The biological process involved in tooth movement is the same in both adults and children. The health of the teeth, gums, and supporting bone is very important to the success of orthodontic treatment in adults as well as children. Because an adult's bones are no longer growing, certain extreme corrections involving the facial bones cannot be accomplished with braces alone. Sometimes, adult orthodontic treatment may have to be combined with the efforts of an oral surgeon to achieve the final result.
How Long Will I Have to Wear Braces?
Treatment time with orthodontic appliances can range from one to three years. The actual time depends on the severity of the problem, the cooperation of the patient, and the growth of the patient's mouth and face. Some individuals respond faster to treatment than others, and minor problems may require less time. After the braces are removed, Dr. Davis recommends his patients to wear retainers to help keep the teeth in their new positions. Retainers are to be worn full time for one year, afterwhich the amount of time worn each day can be gradually reduced until eventually worn just at night for as long as possible.
Allen G. Davis, DDS, MS
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