In the course of an orthodontic practice, it is hard to easily describe all of the treatments that are provided as each patient has their own individual treatment plan. Hopefully, we can break things down into general categories that will help you to understand the treatments.
First, we provide interceptive orthodontic treatments to patients between the ages of 7 and 10 years old. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should be screened by an orthodontist at age 7. At this time, we may see developing orthodontic problems that can best be treated at a younger age. Most children do not have a need for treatment at this time but may still need orthodontic treatment at a future date. What we look for are more severe problems with the goal of correcting them or significantly improving them. Thing that parents should look for are:
- Severe Crowding of the erupting permanent teeth
- Severe Overbites especially when the child cannot close the lips together or if the upper teeth stick out further than the lower lip. These teeth have a significantly higher risk of being damaged in a fall or while playing.
- “Under-bites” where the lower front teeth are in front of the upper front teeth. These can be especially difficult to correct.
- Cross-bites where the lower back teeth are further out to the side than the upper back teeth. This is best corrected at this age.
- Finger and thumb habits should be dealt with prior to the eruption of the permanent teeth.
- There are other problems that could require treatment at this age, but these are the most common
Treatments can include braces, space maintainers, retainers and other orthodontic appliances to correct the problems.
The next type of treatment would be the adolescent patient. These are kids between the ages of 10-18 with all (or most) of their permanent teeth in place. This is the most common type of orthodontic treatment that we do. These patients almost always get braces on all of their adult teeth and some have other orthodontic appliances in conjunction with the braces. At this point we correct any orthodontic problem that is present and we finish the teeth as nicely as possible. A typical treatment at this stage takes approximately two years, but that can depend on many factors like the difficulty of the treatment and patient compliance with rubber-bands and care of their braces.
Adults are the smallest group of patients in treatment, but that percentage is growing. Adult treatments are much like adolescent treatments, however they can take a bit longer due to the fact that adults are not growing. It is much easier to move teeth on a growing individual than on a non-growing individual. Another difference is that we offer ceramic (clear) braces for adults to make the treatment less noticeable. These brackets are very fragile compared to the traditional metal braces we use so they require a higher degree of care from the patient. We find that adults do a much better job of caring for this type of braces. Also available for adults is the Invisalign product. Invisalign is a type of orthodontic appliance that can straighten teeth without braces! It is very nearly invisible to the eye. However Invisalign is available only to patients with less severe orthodontic problems, so not everyone is a candidate for this treatment. I have found that by selecting patients carefully for Invisalign, we have gotten results that meet our standards for treatment. The only way to know with certainty whether you would be a candidate is to have a trained orthodontist look at your teeth.
There are some patients whose orthodontic problems fall outside of what braces alone can correct. For these patients the course of treatment includes both orthodontic treatment and facial surgery provided by an Oral Surgeon. Very few patients require this type of treatment, but the results can be some of the most dramatic and satisfying to the patient and for us.
I hope that this brief description of orthodontic treatments helps you to understand what we do. In order to know what treatment you or your child would require would take a visit to our office to provide a free screening that would determine what needs to be done.