Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specialises in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of jaw, face and bite irregularities (also called malocclusions).

Malocclusion is the technical term for teeth that do not fit together correctly. This condition not only affects the teeth, but also the appearance of the face. Most malocclusions are inherited. However, some are due to acquired habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting. The spacing left from an adult tooth being extracted or an early loss of a baby tooth can also contribute to a malocclusion.

Recent years have brought about many changes with regards to orthodontic treatment and care. Now more than ever patients are experiencing fewer incidences of cavities and missing teeth due to the heightened awareness of preventative dentistry. The increasing awareness of dental and oral health, as well as a patient’s appearance and smile, has increased the desire of many patients to seek out orthodontic treatment. This is done not only as a dental necessity, but for cosmetic reasons as well.

Orthodontic treatment (braces)

The benefits of orthodontic treatment often go beyond the obvious physical changes of an improved bite and straighter teeth. It is also a great way to improve your overall self-image.

While having beautiful straight teeth is important, even more important is the need to prevent or alleviate any potential health problems associated with the teeth or jaw. Crooked teeth or jaw problems may contribute to improper cleaning of teeth, leading to tooth decay and, possibly, gum disease or total tooth loss.

Orthodontic problems that go untreated can lead to chewing and digestion difficulties, speech impairments and abnormal wear of tooth surfaces. Over time, excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth can affect the jaw joints – leading to problems such as headaches or face and neck pain.

With all of the recent advancements in orthodontics, wearing braces has never been easier. State-of-the-art appliances and treatments are now available. From traditional metal braces, to clear and tooth-coloured brackets, to orthodontic wires that are heat activated and require fewer adjustments. Some patients may even be candidates for a revolutionary new way to straighten teeth using clear, retainer type aligners that require no braces or wires.

Reasons why orthodontic treatment might be needed (adults and children)

  • Breathing or swallowing problems – mouth breathing can lead to snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Crossbite – one or more upper teeth biting inside the lower teeth.
  • Crowding – too little space for teeth leading to teeth being malpositioned.
  • Deep overbite – the lower front teeth bite into the gum tissue of the upper teeth or sometimes even into the palate.
  • Disfiguring of the face and mouth – affects the development of the jaw and position of the teeth.
  • Jaw and jaw joint pain.
  • Missing or extra teeth due to tooth decay, injuries or inherited problems.
  • Overjet (protruding upper teeth) – upper teeth that protrude beyond normal and are usually associated with a short lower jaw.
  • Self-image – an attractive smile can boost a person’s self-image and confidence.
  • Spacing between teeth – teeth are missing or may be too small or too large.
  • Speech, chewing or biting problems.
  • Underbite (lower jaw protrusion) – lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.

Reasons why orthodontic treatment might be needed (specific to children)

  • Finger or thumb sucking – these habits can cause protrusion of the upper incisor teeth and mouth breathing.
  • Teeth erupting out of position – these teeth can be guided to proper alignment.

What does orthodontic treatment involve?

Orthodontic treatment involves three phases:

1. Planning phase

Your first couple of visits may include the following:

A medical and dental history evaluation.
Castings or moulds of your teeth.
Computer-generated photograph of your head and neck that will aid in planning.
Photographs of your face and mouth.
X-rays of your teeth and jaw.

After careful planning, your orthodontist will design and apply braces or fabricate custom-made orthodontic appliances for you.

2. Active phase

Active treatment involves visiting your orthodontist on a regular basis for adjustments and following specific treatment requirements to ensure successful treatment.

3. Retention phase

When treatment is completed, the braces and/or appliances are removed and new appliances, called retainers, are made. Usually these retainers are removable and will maintain the changes made to your teeth if worn continuously until the teeth and bone are stabilised in their new positions.

Treatment and retention times vary depending on each individual case. Your orthodontist will advise you about your specific needs to ensure the long-term success of you orthodontic treatment.

Orthodontics can help you have the healthy, straight, beautiful smile you’ve been waiting for.

If you have any questions or concerns about dental treatments or procedures, contact your dentist today!