What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialised branch of dentistry concerned with the development and management of irregularities and abnormalities of the teeth, jaws and face. Its aim is to produce a healthy, functional bite and improve personal appearance. The teeth are usually straightened and aligned by using fixed braces.

Braces can be fitted at any age, but the younger the better. The mouth is still growing and developing at a young age which means less of a chance that the child will have to undergo jaw surgery or tooth extraction. As you get older, your teeth will have to be moved slowly to let your mouth heal, which as a result means you will have to wear braces for a longer period of time.

There are clear, ceramic braces for those of you who want to try and conceal the fact that you are wearing them. There are braces that can be placed behind the teeth for this same purpose. Braces in one form or another have been in use for 100 years and continue to be the primary mechanism used to move teeth.

woman teeth and smile. Close up,half with braces

The benefits are:

Improved aesthetics
Improved jaw function
Correction of crowded teeth
Reduce potential for damage to TM joints
Improve speech development
Correct harmful oral habits
Reduce or eliminate the need for jaw surgery
Improve the width of the dental arches

What is the procedure?

During the first consultation x-rays and plaster moulds of the teeth are taken in order to determine what action needs to be taken. Once it is decided that dental braces are the best option, treatment can begin as soon as there are enough permanent or adult teeth available. Sometimes to create sufficient space for teeth to move into the arch, the first permanent premolars are extracted. The devices themselves are made according to the moulds taken, and then individual brackets are fitted to each tooth. Small wires and elastics hook between the brackets to keep them all in line. Once the braces have been removed a retainer will be fitted to prevent the teeth from moving to their original position. Patients are still advised to visit the dentist for regular check-ups.

Do braces hurt?

Immediately after braces are fitted there may be some discomfort. Shifting teeth and jaws as well as alien brackets can all cause discomfort, but there should be no real pain.