Orthodontics is specifically concerned with diagnosing and treating tooth misalignment and irregularity in the jaw area.  Initially, orthodontic treatments were geared toward the treatment of teens and pre-teens, but these days around 30 percent of orthodontic patients are adults.

There are many advantages to well-aligned teeth, including easier cleaning, better oral hygiene, clearer speech and a more pleasant smile.  Though orthodontic treatment can be effective at any age, the American Dental Association suggests that an orthodontic assessment should be performed around the age of seven.  The earlier orthodontic treatment begins, the more quickly the problem can be successfully resolved.

What problems can be treated with orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a versatile branch of dentistry that can be used alone, or in combination with maxillofacial or cosmetic dentistry.

Here are some of the common conditions treated with orthodontics:

  • Overcrowding – Overcrowding is a common orthodontic problem.  It occurs when there is an insufficient space for the normal growth and development of adult teeth.
  • Aesthetic problems – A beautiful straight smile may be marred by a single misaligned tooth. This tooth can be realigned with ease and accuracy by the orthodontist.  Alternatively, orthodontists can also work to reshape and restructure the lips, jaw or the face.

Orthodontic Solutions

Orthodontics is a technologically advanced field which offers many sophisticated solutions to malocclusions and other cosmetic problems.  The orthodontist will generally perform a visual examination, panoramic x-rays and study models (bite impressions) in order to assess the exact nature of the discrepancy.

When a diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of orthodontic treatment options available.

When braces are finally removed, the “retention” phase begins for most individuals.  The objective of this phase is to ensure the teeth do not regress back to their previous position.  A retainer will be used to maintain the improved position of the teeth.  A retainer is a fixed or removable dental appliance which has been custom-made by the orthodontist to fit the teeth.  Retainers are generally made from transparent plastic and thin wires to optimize the comfort of the patient.

Retainers are worn for varying amounts of time, depending on the type of orthodontic treatment and the age of the patient.  Perseverance and commitment are required to make this final stage of treatment successful.  If the retainer is not worn as directed by the orthodontist, treatment can fail or take much longer than anticipated.

What types of retainer are available?

There are a variety of retainers available; each one geared towards treating a different kind of dental problem.  The orthodontist will make a retainer recommendation depending on the nature of the original diagnosis and the orthodontic treatment plan.

The following are some of the most common types of retainers:

  • Hawley retainer – The Hawley retainer consists of a metal wire on an acrylic arch.  The metal wire may be periodically adjusted by the orthodontist to ensure the teeth stay in the desired position.  The acrylic arch is designed to fit comfortably on the lingual walls or palate of the mouth.

Fixed retainers – A fixed retainer is somewhat similar to a lingual brace in that it is affixed to the tongue side of a few teeth.  Usually, a fixed retainer is used in cases where there has been either rapid or substantial movement of the teeth.  It usually consists of a single wire.  The inclination of the teeth to move rapidly means they are also more likely to regress back to their previous position if a fixed retainer is not placed.

What do I need to consider when using a retainer?

There are a few basic things to consider for proper use and maintenance of your retainer.

Don’t lose the appliance – Removable retainers are very easy to lose.  It is advisable to place your retainer in the case it came in while eating, drinking and brushing.  Leaving a retainer folded in a napkin at a restaurant or in a public restroom can be very costly if lost because a replacement must be created.  A brightly colored case serves as a great reminder.

Clean the retainer properly – Removable retainers can become breeding grounds for calculus and bacteria.  It is essential to clean the inside and outside thoroughly as often as possible.  Hawley retainers can be cleaned with a toothbrush.

Wear the retainer as directed – This phase of treatment is critical. The hard work has been done, the braces are off and now it is tempting not to wear the retainer as often as the orthodontist recommends.  Retainers are needed to give the muscles, tissues and bones time to stabilize the teeth in their new alignment.  Failure to wear the retainer as directed can have regrettable consequences, such as teeth returning to their original position, added expense and lost time.

If you have any questions or concerns about retainers, please contact our office.