What You Need to Know About Orthodontics
Braces are often a fact of life. Most children grow up expecting orthodontics to be a part of adolescence. However, it is not uncommon for adults to wear braces, too, especially since teeth can shift with age. Before you make your first trip to the orthodontist, it is important to understand why you may need orthodontics.
Orthodontics are often required because as the primary teeth are shed and the secondary teeth begin to emerge, these teeth emerge crooked, improperly spaced, or overlapping an adjacent tooth. In some cases, the gum lines or jaw are not properly formed or the bite is misaligned. For example, an individual’s upper jaw and lower jaw may be different sizes, causing them to have an awkward bite (overbite or underbite.) All of these conditions are dubbed malocclusions by the medical community and must be corrected with orthodontics.
Of course, these malocclusions are not your fault, at least not in a majority of cases. Sometimes orthodontics may be used to repair damage caused by poor dental care, an accident, or a medical condition. In most cases, unfortunately, malocclusions are part of the lottery of genetics and inherited traits. Just like you don’t get to choose the natural color of your hair and eyes, you can’t choose the size, shape, and formation of your teeth, jaws, and gums.
Malocclusions may seem harmless, but without correction, they can cause damage to the teeth or facial structure over time. Crooked, overlapping, or large spaces between teeth can increase the risk of bacterial growth and make cleaning the teeth difficult. Correcting malocclusions can also be crucial to self-esteem and developing confidence in your appearance. After all, your smile is often the first thing people see.
If your dentist believes you may be a candidate for orthodontics, he or she may refer you to an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dentist who has extensive specialized training in diagnosis and treatment of malocclusions. In fact, children as young as 6 or 7 years of age may get a referral to begin interceptive treatment therapy. This form of therapy begins with appliances to influence facial structure as it forms and improve alignment of teeth as they emerge, preventing problems before they start. Otherwise, referrals to an orthodontist will generally not occur until adolescence.
If you have concerns about the alignment of your teeth, gums, or jaws, or are concerned about your child’s forming teeth, talk to your dentist. Getting treatment early in the process can reduce costly corrective measures later.