More than 4 million Americans undergo orthodontic treatment each year. If you’ve been told your smile could benefit from a device like braces or headgear, you’re in good company!
In fact, orthodontic treatment only continues to become more common for both children and adults alike. The human jaw is shrinking over time, and many people just don’t have room for all 32 of their teeth to fit naturally. Experts think this is a response to environmental changes and industrialization — and it means that orthodontic treatment is more important than ever.
Let’s take a look at some common orthodontic problems and treatments.
Common Orthodontic Problems
An overbite is a type of jaw misalignment where the upper jaw sits too far in front of the lower jaw. The upper front teeth cover the lower front teeth, which makes it hard for a patient to bite precisely. In some extreme cases, an overbite can even cause the lower teeth to bite into the roof of the mouth.
Nearly 70 percent of children show preliminary signs of an overbite, making it one of the most common problems orthodontists see every year.
An underbite is the opposite of an overbite. It’s a type of jaw misalignment where the lower jaw protrudes in front of the upper jaw, causing the upper front teeth to fall behind the lower front teeth. Underbites not only cause cosmetic concerns but also make it difficult for patients to chew.
In a crossbite, the jaw is misaligned to one side. This means that the lower teeth sit outside of the upper teeth instead of just inside like they should. Over time, a crossbite can cause facial asymmetry, chewing difficulties, and uneven tooth decay.
An open bite happens when teeth don’t overlap properly and there is a gap in the front of a patient’s mouth when their jaw is closed. Open bites primarily cause aesthetic concerns and chewing impairment.
Crowding is quite simply when there isn’t enough room in a patient’s jaw to fit all of their teeth. It’s the most common reason for braces and other orthodontic treatment, especially as our jaws continue to get smaller over generations.
Crowding is not only a cosmetic issue — it also increases the risks of tartar accumulation, periodontal (gum) disease, and cavities, even if a patient is still able to chew properly.
Spacing is the opposite of crowding. This happens when the jaw has too much room and there are visible gaps between the teeth. It’s generally a purely cosmetic issue, but in some situations, it can cause gum irritation.
Protrusion happens when the jaw itself isn’t misaligned (like in an overbite) but the upper front teeth protrude out too far in front of the lower teeth. This makes it difficult to bite with any sort of precision, and most patients feel self-conscious about the way their smile looks.
Additional cosmetic considerations
There are many orthodontic problems that are purely cosmetic but still extremely frustrating for patients. Sometimes teeth are too small, have an unusual texture, are misshapen, or are missing completely. Orthodontic treatment can address all of these concerns!
Common Orthodontic Treatments
There are often multiple ways to treat the same orthodontic problem. Your dentist or orthodontist will work with you to recommend a custom plan that’s best for your unique situation and long-term goals.
Let’s take a look at a few common treatment options.
Traditional braces use metal brackets, wires, and bands to straighten teeth over time. Depending on the severity of the teeth crowding and whether other issues are present, treatment can range from a couple of months to several years.
Invisible aligners, like Invisalign, seek to replace traditional metal braces with removable retainers instead. Throughout treatment, a patient uses a series of clear trays to gradually shift their teeth.
The timeline of invisible aligners is usually similar to traditional braces, but checkups happen more frequently to replace the removable retainers, often at two-week intervals.
Headgear attempts to slow down upper jaw growth and pull the front teeth back to prevent or lessen an overbite. It works by attaching a strap around the back of a patient’s head to a metal wire on the front of their upper teeth that’s called a face bow.
Despite the old-school movie and TV show jokes, wearing headgear usually isn’t a big deal. Most patients only wear it overnight, and it can drastically improve jaw misalignment — especially if treatment is started in childhood!
A palatal expander makes the arch of the upper jaw wider. A plastic plate is attached to the roof of the mouth, and small screws push out of it and into the joints of the surrounding bones to move them outward. This can help pave the way for future orthodontic treatment.
Fixed-space maintainers prevent surrounding teeth from crowding into the space of a lost baby tooth before the adult tooth can fully come in. A band is attached to one of the teeth next to the open space, and a wire reaches from this band to the other tooth to keep the space open.
Retainers are most commonly used to preserve a newly straightened smile once treatment is finished. Most orthodontists recommend that patients wear their retainers every night for the rest of their life, since teeth can quickly revert back to their old positions.
Both removable and permanent retainers are available in a variety of styles. Removable retainers are most commonly given for the upper teeth, while many people get permanent retainers for their bottom teeth.
Start your journey to a smile you love
If you’re thinking about orthodontic treatment, you’re not alone — and our experts here at Madison Family Dental are here to help.
We offer traditional braces, Invisalign aligners, interceptive orthodontics for children, retainers, and more. We’d love to work with you to create the perfect treatment plan! Get in touch today to get started.