Orthodontics – an introduction
If you’re starting out on your search for orthodontic treatment or are ready to take your search to the next step, it’s always good to know a bit about what to expect. Our friendly team here at Auckland Orthodontics have put together the following questions and answers to help you understand more about what orthodontic treatment involves.
What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialist branch of dentistry that is concerned with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of irregularities of teeth, jaws and face. Technically speaking, these problems are called “malocclusion” which means “bad bite”.
What is a malocclusion?
Malocclusions are usually inherited or acquired. Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth, and a wide variety of other abnormalities of the jaws, teeth and face. Acquired malocclusions can be caused by trauma (accidents); thumb, finger or pacifier sucking; tonsils and adenoids that obstruct the airway; disease or premature loss of primary (baby) or permanent teeth.
Both inherited and acquired malocclusions affect both the alignment of teeth and facial development and appearance.
Why is orthodontic treatment important?
Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean and maintain. However, in most cases, the main benefit of orthodontic treatment is aesthetic. Research has revealed that people with attractive smiles are viewed as having better self-esteem and being more successful.
What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?
The very first thing that sets the two apart is the specialisation. To become an orthodontist, you need to become a dentist first. Orthodontists attend five years of regular dental school, but then spend another three years of additional specialty training (masters or doctorate) in orthodontics at a reputable university.
An orthodontist is registered with The Dental Council of New Zealand as a dental specialist. Orthodontists are also certified by professional organisations like the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO).
What do orthodontists do?
An orthodontist treats patients for jaw re-alignment, teeth straightening and other related procedures. Orthodontists also have the expertise to recognise and manage any potential complications that may arise during or following treatment. Orthodontists don’t do fillings, drilling, tooth whitening, cleans or extractions. That’s what you see your dentist for.
How do I know if I need teeth removed?
The majority of orthodontic treatment can be done without needing to remove any teeth. However, in some situations tooth extraction may be recommended, for example, excessive protrusion. The decision to remove teeth is not taken lightly and is a highly specialised judgement made on a case by case basis. This is done in consultation with the patient after a rigorous examination of records and cost/risk/benefit analysis to achieve the best outcome for the patient.
Do I need a referral to see an orthodontist?
No, we welcome self-referrals. Our patients are also referred by school dental therapists and family dentists, who are trained to detect potential issues, give recommendations and refer cases appropriately to an orthodontist.
When should I visit the orthodontist?
Age is no barrier to orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists use their extensive skills to manage orthodontic problems in children, teenagers and adults of any age. In many cases, problems are best sorted out when all the adult teeth are through (age 10-14-years-old). It is recommended that a child has their first orthodontic examination at six to eight-years-old.
What are functional appliances?
Most functional appliances are removable “plates” that use force to gently move the muscle and soft tissues of the face to straighten teeth. Orthodontists use functional appliance treatment for certain types of bites following a highly specialised and thorough analysis.
Do braces hurt?
No, having your braces placed on does not hurt at all. A few hours after your appointment, when your teeth start to move, they will feel a bit tender. A soft diet for a few days together with over the counter pain relief like Panadol usually helps to ease this discomfort.
How long does treatment take?
Treatment time with orthodontic appliances can range from six months to three years, depending on the severity of the problem, the cooperation of the patient (keeping scheduled orthodontic appointments, maintaining proper hygiene, and taking care of your braces) and the growth of the patient's mouth and face. Some mouths respond faster to treatment than others, and minor problems may require less time. After the active orthodontic treatment is completed, in most cases retainers need to be worn to stop the teeth moving back to the original position. It is important to realise that teeth can still continue to move throughout life due to the natural ageing process.
How much does orthodontic treatment cost?
Orthodontic treatment costs vary widely and reflects both the severity of the problem and the length of treatment required. Fees will be discussed before any treatment begins so there are no hidden costs.
We work hard to make orthodontics affordable and we offer a number of flexible payment plans to accommodate all budgets, including payment by credit card and by direct debit. If full payment is made at the onset of treatment, we offer a courtesy fee discount.
What types of braces do you offer?
At Auckland Orthodontics we use traditional stainless steel (metal) braces with the options of having different colours, lingual braces, clear ceramic braces and Invisalign aligners.
If you have any further questions or would like to discover the difference orthodontic treatment can make to your teeth, book a free Invisalign consultation with the friendly team at Auckland Orthodontics today.