General Information – An Introduction For Patients

Orthodontics, the branch of dentistry concerned with the growth of the teeth, jaws and face, is in high demand. Nearly one million people in the UK started having orthodontics last year and more adults than ever before are wanting treatment. Why? Orthodontic treatment is about the harmony of your teeth, mouth and jaws.

Once you can bite together correctly, you can eat more comfortably and care for your teeth and gums more easily. And your smile will benefit!

The Starting Point

Most courses of orthodontic treatment begin with a referral from a general dentist to a specialist. Depending on what treatment is needed, most patients are seen by a specialist in a local practice or by a consultant in hospital. Some patients are treated by dentists with extra training and experience to treat the milder cases. These are some of the most common reasons for a referral:

  • Protruding upper front teeth – one of the most common dental problems
  • Crowding – a narrow jaw may mean there is not enough room for your teeth, resulting in crowding
  • Gaps and Spaces – some patients have significant gaps between their teeth
  • Asymmetry – particularly when the centre lines of the upper and lower front teeth do not match
  • A deep bite – when your upper teeth cover the lower teeth too much
  • A reverse bite – when your upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth
  • An open bite – when your front teeth remain apart when your back teeth meet
  • Impacted teeth – sometimes, secondary teeth come in the wrong position or do not erupt at all

Getting Treatment

Every patient needs tailor-made treatment, planned by the orthodontist and agreed with you, the patient. In order to decide what treatment is required for you, your orthodontist will need to carry out a full assessment of your teeth which is likely to include x-rays, impressions (a mould of the teeth) and photographs. Treatment can take more than two years so it is important you are happy from the outset with what is recommended. Braces are almost always needed. Those which are used most often are:

  • A fixed brace
    This is the most common type of brace today, often known as “train tracks”. Brackets are glued onto the teeth and linked by wires. Small elastic hoops are often used to hold the wire in position. The wires exert gentle pressure to move the teeth into a new position. The brackets can be metal, ceramic or even gold and the elastic hoops come in many colours.
  • A removable brace
    This is sometimes used for correcting a simple problem, such as moving a single tooth or expanding the dental arch. It has a plastic base plate with wires and springs attached. Removable braces need to be worn all the time except for cleaning or sport.
  • Functional appliances
    These are used to harness the growth of the jaws and improve way the upper and lower teeth meet. There are several designs all of which fit on to both the upper and lower teeth and hold the lower jaw forward. They are mostly removable but should be worn as near to full-time as possible
  • Retainers
    At the end of treatment, all patients should wear retainers to hold their teeth in the new position. These can be removable or fixed and are an important part of treatment.

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