Why is orthodontic treatment so common in today’s society?
The mouth and its surroundings comprise one of the most functionally complex and important parts of the human body. It might be described as the “crossroads,” involved as it is in breathing, speaking, chewing, swallowing, and perhaps most importantly, emotional facial expressions such as smiling, laughing, etc. In the past, early loss of teeth because of decay and periodontal problems often compromised these valuable body functions but was considered a normal part of the aging process. Over the years, it has become recognized that straight teeth and a balanced bite can contribute, along with other advances in dental health care, to maintenance of the natural teeth for an entire lifetime. As a result, orthodontics has become an accepted preventive measure that offers substantial, lasting health benefits.
And then there is the known significant social advantage of having straight teeth, an attractive smile, and balanced facial appearance. Studies have proven that both males and females with these assets are judged by their peers to be more friendly, more desired as a friend, more admired, and more likely to be successful. As a result, many modern families place a high priority on orthodontic correction not only for its physical health benefits, but in order to take advantage of the opportunity to go through life with big, beautiful, bright smiles!
Why should bite problems (malocclusions) be treated?
Crooked teeth, protruding teeth, and a bad bite can lead to a variety of health-related problems. Crowded teeth are more difficult to properly brush and floss, which may contribute to tooth decay and/or gum disease. Protruding teeth are more susceptible to accidental fracture or even traumatic loss. Teeth that are out of position often undergo uneven biting-surface wear. Certain types of malocclusions may be related to developing speech, chewing and swallowing problems. Bite shifts may be a cause of some types of jaw joint (TMJ) problems. And, correction of unsightly tooth alignment has been shown to substantially improve personal self-image. Orthodontics can contribute to a lifetime of optimum dental health and, as a bonus, can create a beautiful, pleasing smile!
When is the best time for your child to begin orthodontics?
Bite problems (malocclusions) can be corrected and smiles enhanced through orthodontics at any age. But there is an optimum age at which to begin most orthodontic procedures to ensure that the best possible result is achieved within the shortest period of time with the least expense. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends an initial orthodontic evaluation at the first sign of malocclusion problems or no later than age 7. At this early stage of development, orthodontic treatment may not be necessary, but timely evaluation will allow Drs. McNeill and McCulloch to anticipate future problems, advise you as the optimum time to begin treatment and answer any questions you may have regarding your child's dental health. You can schedule your child's initial orthodontic evaluation by calling us at 206 232 9600.
What are the possible advantages of early childhood treatment?
Some of the most direct results of early treatment are:
- Preserving space or creating room for developing permanent teeth
- Correcting differences between upper and lower jaw size by altering the direction and amount of jaw growth (facial/functional orthopedics)
- Reducing the risk of traumatic fracture or loss of protruding upper front teeth
- Minimizing the need for later permanent tooth removal
- Reducing treatment time with full braces during adolescence or adulthood
Orthodontists often recommend that orthodontic treatment be divided into two phases: an early phase starting usually after age 7 while there are still some baby teeth and a second phase after all the adult teeth have erupted. The guiding principle is that certain types of correction can be accomplished most advantageously at an early stage of development while final detailed bite positioning cannot be done until all the permanent teeth are in place. If significant problems such as severe overbite or underbite are eliminated early on, the duration of the second treatment phase can be substantially reduced. For social reasons, adolescents are delighted when the length of time they have to wear braces is kept to a minimum!
Most comprehensive orthodontic correction with full braces is done during adolescence - sometimes as the second phase of a two-phase treatment plan and sometimes as a single phase. In general, it is best to start as soon as all permanent teeth have erupted and certainly before development of the facial structures is complete. This may be as early as age 10 or 11 in girls and as late as 13 or 14 in boys. The less mature the teeth, jaws and facial muscle systems are, the more rapidly correction can be accomplished and the less likely there will be any tendency for re-occurrences of the malocclusion.
A large percentage of our patients are adults, and they agree that it is never too late to enhance their dental health and to improve what may be their greatest asset - their smile. Adult orthodontic treatment can dramatically improve personal appearance and self-esteem. Creating an optimally aligned and balanced bite relationship may contribute to control of gum tissue and bone recession, improve dental hygiene and limit abnormal wear of tooth surfaces.
Orthodontic tooth movement can be accomplished at any age, although it may take place at a slower rate in adults than in adolescents or children. Often adult orthodontic treatment is done in preparation for replacement of missing teeth, in conjunction with periodontal therapy, or as an adjunct to corrective jay (orthognathic) surgery. Drs. McNeill and McCulloch have extensive experience collaborating with other dental specialists in designing and carrying our comprehensive interdisciplinary treatment plans.
Over the years, as we have adapted our clinical procedures to emerging technological advances, we have been able to progressively reduce the adult patient discomfort and inconvenience during the orthodontic treatment process. In planning treatment, we may recommend a variety of types of braces including conventional metal appliances, clear or tooth-colored brackets, or in selected cases, virtually invisible removable aligners (Invisalign®).
At your EXAMINATION APPOINTMENT, we will be able to discuss your particular circumstances and outline treatment options applicable to your personal requirements. We welcome you to call our office at 206 232 9600 to schedule an evaluation of your individual orthodontic health care needs.