The reason most people decide to see an orthodontist is a good one. They want the great smile that comes with straight teeth. Who can blame them? A survey published by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found that nearly 98 percent of adults say individuals with nice smiles enjoyed real advantages in their personal and professional lives.
Orthodontists will tell you that the health-related reasons for seeking orthodontic treatment are just as compelling as those tied to self esteem. Left untreated, malocclusions (i.e. crooked teeth) and misaligned bites can make your life miserable by:
- Interfering with proper chewing.
- Affecting speech (i.e. creating a lisp).
- Increasing the likelihood of chipped and cracked teeth.
- Exacerbating chronic dental problems like tooth decay, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and periodontal gum disease.
How Orthodontists Treat Malocclusions
Orthodontists straighten crooked teeth and fix bite problems by gradually applying pressure to your teeth with braces, orthodontic retainers and other dental appliances. These treatments are highly effective at correcting a wide range of common yet medically complicated dental problems, including underbite, overbite, open bite, cross bite and crowded teeth.
While your orthodontic treatment will be customized to your individual needs, most plans consist of three phases:
Pretreatment -- During this phase, the orthodontist performs a clinical exam; takes X-rays of your mouth and head; and makes a mold of your teeth. Your orthodontist will use this information to determine what dental appliance to use during your treatment.
Active treatment -- This is the stage when your orthodontic appliance is in place and you visit your orthodontist for periodic adjustments.
Retention -- After you complete active treatment, you may have to wear an orthodontic retainer to keep your newly aligned teeth in place.