The treatment for misaligned (crooked) teeth is called orthodontics—and the good news is, you’re never too old to get the smile you’ve always wanted.
Most people who have orthodontic treatment will spend some time—usually from six to 30 months—wearing braces. Braces (also called fixed orthodontic appliances) are made of a flexible metal wire called an archwire, which is attached to the teeth by small brackets. These brackets, which may be made of metal or a tooth-colored ceramic material, are usually cemented onto the front surfaces of the teeth.
Braces work by applying gentle pressure to the teeth through the archwire. This causes the teeth to slowly move into better positions. Sometimes, rubber bands (elastics) are also used to assist the movements. If the teeth are too crowded in the mouth, it may be necessary to extract (remove) 1-4 teeth to make space for the other teeth, or to use a special device to make more room in the upper jaw. After an orthodontic examination, we can determine exactly what is needed.
Most people are familiar with the traditional silvery metal braces—but did you know there are different types of braces as well? Metal braces are also available in a gold finish, for a new look. Adults (and many celebrities) often prefer tooth-colored ceramic braces, because they are much less obvious: all you can see is the thin archwire. However, ceramic braces are more expensive than metal ones.
People whose teeth don’t need a great deal of straightening may also be able to use Invisalign® clear braces, which are even less noticeable.
When is the best time to start orthodontic treatment?
If you’re an adult, it may be right now! For a child, treatment for certain types of misalignment is best begun as soon as the first permanent molars erupt, around age 7 or 8 (called Phase I treatment). But, for most children, treatment typically begins when most of the permanent (adult) teeth have come in, around age 12 or 13. A child should have an orthodontic evaluation at around age 7—because the earlier certain problems are discovered, the easier it will be to treat them.
Some clear signs that orthodontic treatment may be needed are teeth that stick in or out too far, are crowded together, or are out of place. Other possible signs include mouth breathing, speech difficulties, thumb sucking past age 3 or 4, and frequent biting of the cheek or palate. Our experienced Orthodontists can evaluate these problems and recommend the necessary treatment, if any.
When the braces come off, you will probably need to wear a removable retainer – potentially a clear retainer – for a period of time, to keep your teeth from moving back to their old positions. This will help you keep that great-looking smile for a lifetime!