FAQs about orthodontics

Orthodontic FAQ

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is the dental specialty that includes the diagnosis, prevention, interception and correction of dental irregularities, as well as neuromuscular and skeletal abnormalities of the developing or mature orofacial structures. These may involve crowded, protruded and misaligned teeth, as well as poor or mismatched jaw relationships.

Orthodontic FAQs

Orthodontics also includes treating and controlling various aspects of facial growth (dentofacial orthopedics) and the shape and development of the jaw. The aim of orthodontic therapy is to optimise the health and function of teeth and jaws as well as to achieve an aesthetically attractive smile.

How does an orthodontist differ from a dentist?

In much the same way as doctors choose to specialise in areas such as cardiology and neurology, dentists can also choose to specialise. An orthodontics specialist is called an orthodontist. The word “orthodontics” is derived from the Greek words orthos, meaning proper or straight, and odons, meaning teeth. An orthodontist specialises in treating patients with improper positioning of teeth when the mouth is closed (malocclusion), which results in an improper bite.

How does orthodontic treatment work?

Orthodontics uses metal, ceramic or plastic appliances to move your teeth into correct alignment. These appliances may be removable or they may be bonded to the teeth. By placing a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, braces slowly move teeth to a corrected position.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment time typically ranges from 12-20 months, depending on the growth of the patient’s teeth and facial structures, as well as the complexity of the orthodontic needs. Patients grow at different rates and will respond differently to orthodontic treatment, so the time to case completion may differ from the original estimate. The patient’s diligent use of any prescribed elastics and other appliances is an important factor in achieving the most efficient treatment.

Does orthodontic treatment hurt?

No, orthodontic treatment doesn’t hurt, but at times throughout your treatment you may experience mild discomfort. This usually occurs after each appointment, when we are checking on your treatment progress and adjusting your appliance for the next phase of treatment. This discomfort will only last a day or two and can be relieved with over-the-counter pain relief.

What type of braces do you use?

At SOP we use a range of orthodontic appliances to correct our patients’ orthodontic issues and will recommend the best appliance for you at your Specialist Orthodontic Consultation. Our team is experienced in the use of traditional metal braces, tooth-colored ceramic braces, hidden lingual braces and clear aligners, as well as a range of other functional appliances.

What are fixed appliances?

With fixed appliances, the brackets and wire form the active parts of the appliance. The brackets determine where each tooth should be at the end of the treatment. The connecting wire has a certain shape and strength and enables or activates the brackets to ‘work’ on the teeth. Because fixed appliances are worn permanently, quick and efficient tooth movement is not as reliant on discipline and co-operation as removable appliances. However, there are other important aspects to remember with fixed appliances and in order to prevent frequent breakage and damage, little adjustments in how and what you eat and how you behave may need to be made see here.

What are removable braces?

Motivation and disciplined co-operation, especially with removable appliances, can be a challenge. Ideally, the appliance should be worn a minimum of 16 hours per day. If worn less than 12 hours per day, a negative effect on the result and length of the treatment is likely. Teeth won’t move sufficiently or move back into their original position if a removable appliance is not worn long enough each day. If such appliances are worn less than the recommended time, insufficient pressure is applied to the teeth and as a result, the teeth won’t move in the way the orthodontist has planned, thus delayed or even complicating the therapy. It is also important to attend the scheduled appointment throughout the treatment so that problems can be spotted early and resolved.

History of orthodontics

History of orthodontics

With its advances in technology and treatment modalities, orthodontics is a discipline that is nowadays very much regarded as a part of modern dentistry, so it is somewhat surprising that even Neanderthal humans have been using rudimentary ways of mechanically moving teeth by inserting bits of bone or other natural materials in-between teeth. Archaeological finds of teeth and jaws show signs of prehistoric orthodontic treatments being used to solve dental problems.

Appliances for aligning teeth go as far back as the Egyptians. Many of the mummies had crude metal bands around their teeth, and archaeologists believed catgut may have been tied to these bands to provide pressure to move the teeth.

Pierre Fauchard, born in 1728, is considered the Father of Dentistry, having invented an appliance called bandeau. This horseshoe-shaped strip of metal contained regularly spaced holes that fit around the teeth to correct their alignment. However, the first formal text discussing orthodontics was published in 1879 by Norman Kingsley.

It wasn’t until 1900 that orthodontics was first declared a specialty by Edward H. Angle, becoming the first dental specialty. He founded the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), started the first independent school of orthodontics, and originated the classification of malocclusions.

Since the 1970’s, the invention of dental adhesives meant that practitioners could stick the brackets to teeth surfaces. Meanwhile, stainless steel replaced gold and silver as the most popular choice for wires due to its manipulability, reducing braces costs significantly.

Modern orthodontic treatment has developed in many ways in just one generation. Orthodontic appliances now have a more appealing appearance and can even be hidden from view entirely. There have also been improvements to the performance of these appliances, which can mean less physical pressure and shorter treatment times. Patients have more options and flexibility in their orthodontic appliances, such as ceramic braces, which use tooth-coloured brackets, lingual braces, which are applied to the back of the teeth or clear aligners, which are removable and less noticeable due to their transparent material.

But even when opting for more traditional braces with brackets and wires, the advancement in the materials being used has changed the way teeth can be moved significantly. The durable and temperature-sensitive nickel-titanium wires developed by NASA are often used in modern orthodontics as they require more moderate pressure to move teeth.

With all this ample variety to choose from, these modern materials and appliances also have drawbacks and are not right for all patients. Therefore, it is important to consult a specialist orthodontist to advise on the most suitable treatment for the best possible result.