Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that corrects improperly aligned teeth or a jaw position that is ‘out-of-whack’ (yes, that’s an unofficial dental term). Most of us have been through the regular metal and wire braces that were something of a standard requirement for completing high school; however, there is more to “braces” than just creating an evenly spaced smile.
Beyond the Improved Smile
Because crooked teeth are harder to keep clean, they become more prone to collecting bits of gummy bear and hot cheetos, which are your basic ingredients for a quick recipe of decay and gum disease. A misaligned bite creates additional stress on chewing, which can lead to muscle pain in your jaw, resulting in headaches, potential TMJ issues, maybe even some neck/shoulder/back pain, and before you know it you’re unable to get out of bed and popping Motrin like M&M’s. Finally, teeth that are out of “occlusion” are at a greater risk of wearing and chipping.
Whether you are born with, or develop, an overbite (aka “buck teeth”), an underbite (also known as “bulldog teeth”), a crossbite (upper teeth don’t come down in front of lowers when biting normally), an open bite (space between uppers and lowers when back teeth bite down together), a misplaced midline (the center of your upper fronts don’t line up with the center of your lower fronts), or have spaces or crowding, there are various types of orthodontic appliances that can address each issue.
Appliances can be either ‘fixed’ or ‘removable’ regardless of whether the goal is to move teeth, retrain muscles, or affect the growth of the jaw. Fixed appliances are just that – fixed. They’re put in place, and eventually removed, by an orthodontist. Removable appliances are, well, removable.
The most common fixed appliances are traditional braces that use bands and brackets to anchor teeth, while tension is then applied to the wires connecting those brands and brackets at regular intervals. Over time, teeth are shifted into the desired position.
Removable appliances include the clear, custom aligners that are a great alternative for adults who don’t want the metal wires and brackets. They are virtually invisible and only removed for eating, brushing and flossing. Instead of tightening wires to move teeth, each tray is switched out every four weeks, for one that is a closer approximation of the final position. Over time, teeth are shifted into the desired position.
Upon completion of ‘active’ orthodontic treatment, retainers are used to help maintain teeth in their improved positions while surrounding bone reforms. It is possible for teeth to stay aligned without regular retention, however as we age teeth continue to drift, therefore a night-time retainer is recommended. Realistically, most adult ortho patients are more likely to need lifetime retention.
Aren’t Orthodontics for Young People?
Sure. You see teens and young adults wearing braces all the time. However, there really is no upper age limit for orthodontic treatment, as long as your teeth and gums are healthy. In fact, we’re starting to see more and more adult patients undertaking treatment, either because they never had orthodontics as children, or because the natural process of aging and teeth shifting has created unsightly crowding.
We are a provider of ClearCorrect, which straightens teeth using a series of clear, custom, removable aligners. We find our patients have great success with this removable orthodontic appliance option.
If you are interested in correcting an overbite (or any other crowding or mis-alignment), contact us or give us a call at (207) 782-5308 to set up an evaluation to see if you’re a good candidate for ClearCorrect.