What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialist branch of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis, prevention and realignment of the teeth and jaws to improve the appearance and function of the teeth. An attractive smile is also a vital asset to personal self-confidence and helps improve self-esteem.
Who can provide orthodontic treatment?
Any dentally qualified professional is able to provide orthodontic treatment including general dentists. They are experts in providing most aspects of general dental care such as check-ups, fillings, dentures and tooth extractions. They may also have some experience in providing orthodontic treatment but generally, they have much less formal training and experience compared to a Specialist in orthodontics.
Undergoing a minimum of 3 years post-graduate training, Specialist Orthodontists only provide orthodontic treatment and routinely treat patients with a broad range of orthodontic problems. These range from patients requiring simple alignment of the teeth to those with the most challenging, complex issues requiring jaw surgery as part of their treatment.
As they only focus on one area, a Specialist Orthodontist’s knowledge and experience will tend to ensure that they are able to provide the most up-to-date, evidence-based treatment, offer the greatest range of orthodontic appliance options and have the ability to answer all your orthodontically related questions.
When should treatment begin?
The majority of orthodontic treatment occurs when most of the adult teeth have erupted which is usually 12-14 years of age. Occasionally, early ‘interceptive’ treatment is indicated in the younger patient (normally less than 10 years old), which can, sometimes, mean that the need for full (‘comprehensive’) treatment in the teenage years can be avoided.
Comprehensive treatment usually takes between 18 months to 2 years although it varies with the clinical complexity and patient cooperation. A number of appliance options are now available which allows treatment to be quicker, more efficient without compromising the outcome. These include Invisalign® aligners or lingual fixed braces.
Adult Treatment: It is never too late to consider orthodontic treatment. Although adult faces are no longer growing and certain treatments cannot be achieved by braces alone, adult treatments are perfectly feasible in most instances. See our Adult Orthodontic Treatment section for more information.
Fixed braces are still used when treating teenage and adult patients as they provide excellent treatment results with efficiency and predictability. However, a combination with other types of appliance is sometimes required in teenage treatment such as removable or functional appliances to achieve the best result. More modern orthodontic appliances now include the Invisalign® aligner system and lingual fixed braces; both of these options increase the range of options available to those patients who require more discrete, less visible treatment.
Auxiliary components (e.g. elastics) are often used in combination with fixed braces to allow full correction of the bite. When orthodontic treatment has completed and the braces or aligners have been removed, it is essential to wear Retainers to allow the teeth to settle in their new positions. Failure to wear the retainers as instructed can lead to unwanted tooth movement (‘relapse’) and disappointment.
Success depends directly on patient cooperation during and after treatment. Failure to follow instructions or to wear the various components of the braces (e.g. elastics) or to look after the braces as instructed will lead to prolonged treatment, a less than ideal result, or a combination of the two.