What is orthodontics?
The term orthodontics has a Greek basis. Ortho meaning straight and ‘odont’ meaning tooth.
It is a subdivision of dentistry that primarily deals with maligned (skew) teeth and the bone that houses them (jaws). Orthodontic treatment includes the diagnosis, the prevention and then the correction of mal-positioned teeth.
Orthodontics does not only deal with the moving of teeth but also deals with the control and modification of facial growth.
What causes skew teeth?
Skew teeth are a developmental problem that started early in life. It is influenced by the environment and the genetics with the epigenome as a modulator.
This means that every person is programmed genetically to develop normally (except those with syndromes), but that environmental factors influence your genes and can switch certain genes on or off.
It is also a fact that bone growth is stimulated by the activity of muscles. With our more modern lifestyles, we eat more refined food and our chewing actions are not what it’s supposed to be. If the bone growth is inhibited, then there is not enough space for all the teeth in the arch and that is when the teeth erupt skew.
There are 3 functions that have an effect on the growth of your facial bones: breathing, swallowing and mastication (chewing)
If a child is breathing through their mouth and not their nose, the tongue drops out of the palate and the child will develop a narrow high palate and upper arch. The upper arch develops around the tongue, which is a very strong muscle.
If the child still has an infantile swallowing, the tip of the tongue comes forward and pushes the front teeth apart and creates an open bite. The child must be able to swallow with a closed mouth with the tip of the tongue at the back of the palate.
Eating harder food, like raw fruit and vegetables and meats, will stimulate jaw growth. The muscles work harder and the bones are stimulated.
Certain habits, like thumb sucking, also creates malocclusions. The moment there is a disturbance in the balance between the facial and oral muscles, a malocclusion can occur.
Why treat skew teeth?
First of all, it is not just for aesthetic reasons.
For the maintenance of your teeth, it is important to have a balanced occlusion (bite). If the bite is not balanced then your teeth will wear off quicker than normal and you might lose your teeth prematurely. To replace teeth is much more expensive than orthodontic treatment. If your bite is too closed, then you can get TMJ joint problems with headaches as a result.
Skew teeth are difficult to keep clean and you can get cavities unnecessarily. Those cavities are normally also difficult to repair and the fillings don’t last that long.
Studies have shown that people with straight, white teeth get more sales, more dates and get the promotion quicker. A beautiful smile is a confidence booster.
When is the best time to start orthodontic treatment? (braces)
The best time to start treatment is when you can see there is a problem.
The American orthodontic society states that a child must go for their first orthodontic screening by the age of 7. There are other orthodontic treatments without braces available as well, e.g. The Myobrace System.
The treatment can be done in phases. Firstly, it is important to change any habits that have a negative impact on the development of your jaws like thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting. Any decay or infections need to be seen to.
Prevention is better than cure.
How long does the treatment last?
It depends on the severity of the case and the cooperation of the patient. It can vary between anything from 10 and 24 months. After the treatment is finished, there is a retentive phase where the patient sleeps with an appliance for approximately 2 years. Now a day’s lifelong retention is promulgated by most orthodontists.
Do’s and Don’ts when having Braces
The breaking of the brackets will make the treatment time longer. Straight teeth full of holes is not going to work. So the following guidelines will help you during your treatment time.
No hard, chewy, sugary snacks. (e.g. chewing gum, wine gums, lollipops.)
No biltong or hard dry wors, only very fine biltong.
Eat with a knife and fork. Don’t eat the meat off the bone (e.g. ribs)
Cut hard fruit like apples and carrots in smaller pieces.
No sugary drinks like coke. Fruit juice, milk, and water are great.
Make sure your teeth are squeaky clean. There are extra surfaces where plaque can accumulate and it is important to clean and brush properly.
Bleeding gums will interfere with the treatment, so keep the bacteria (plaque) to a minimum.
Use a brush with a small head, so that you can reach everywhere.