Orthodontic Problems and Treatments – Why Visit an Orthodontist?
We all know who a basic dentist is. However, not many of us know that an orthodontist is different from a basic dentist. Dentistry also has a large number of specializations within it. One such specialised field of study is called Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. After the basic dentistry course, dentists can opt to undergo extensive training for a period of three years to become an expert in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics comes from the Greek word “orthos” meaning right or correct and “dons” meaning the tooth. Hence, in the literal sense, the meaning of orthodontics is right or correct teeth.
Thus, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics is the specialisation in the field of dentistry that deals with diagnosing and treating teeth and jaws which are not positioned correctly, i.e. malpositioned teeth and jaws.
While orthodontics deals more with diagnosing and treating teeth that are not aligned correctly, dentofacial orthopedics is the field of study which focuses on improving the position and dimension of the bone structures of the jaw and teeth. It involves guiding facial growth and development and is largely dealt with in childhood.
Who is an Orthodontist?
Not everyone is born with that perfect smile that you envy. Some are just lucky to find skilled orthodontists!
So in short, Orthodontists are specialists in the field of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. This means that they can help you prevent, diagnose and treat any irregularities related to your teeth and jaws. Commonly people know them as “dentists who put braces”.
What are the Various Orthodontic Problems?
There are some common complaints we hear from our patients. If you observe or experience any of the problems mentioned below, you must visit an orthodontist. Well, even if you visit a basic dentist, he/she will and SHOULD direct you to an orthodontist because such specific dental problems require specialized care.
1. Forwardly placed teeth
Condition: This is a condition of malocclusion, i.e. incorrect alignment of teeth where the upper teeth appear protruding. In this case, either the upper teeth extend too far forward in comparison to the lower teeth or, the lower teeth do not extend far enough to reach the upper teeth.
Causes: Some common causes include prolonged thumbsucking, consistent and sustained pacifier sucking, chronic nail-biting, chewing of objects and even genetics. Another reason could also be over the development of the upper jaw with respect to the lower jaw or on the other hand, reduced development of the lower jaw with respect to the upper jaw.
2. Crowded or overlapping teeth
Condition: If there is a mismatch between the teeth and the space available for them to reside in, the result is obvious. Some teeth will have to overlap and squeeze in. This results in crowding of teeth where the teeth don’t look perfectly arranged.
Causes: Excessively large teeth, small jaws or both can cause crowding or overlapping of teeth.
3. Spaced out teeth or gaps between teeth
Condition: Imagine the inverse situation of crowding or overlapping. Here there is excessive space available for teeth. However, the teeth do not need so much space leading to vacant areas. This forms gaps and spaces between teeth.
Causes: Excessively small teeth, larger jaws or both can cause spaced out teeth or gaps between teeth.
4. Open bite
Condition: Open bite is the condition when the front upper and lower teeth have a gap between them when you bite although the rear upper and lower teeth join.
Causes: Open Bite can be a result of forwardly placed upper and lower teeth and can be caused due to prolonged thumbsucking, consistent and sustained pacifier sucking, tongue thrusting, temporomandibular joint disorder, skeletal problems, divergent growth of the upper and the lower jaw with respect to each other, etc.
Condition: When biting normally, if the front upper teeth do not come slightly in front of the lower teeth, or are behind the front lower teeth, it results in a crossbite.
Causes: This can be a result of milk teeth falling off too late, permanent teeth erupting too abruptly or early, thumb-sucking for a long time, swallowing in an abnormal way for a very long time, etc.
6. Overbite or Deep bite
Condition: An overbite or deep bite happens when the upper jaw is much ahead of the lower jaw or extends too far over the lower jaw. This can result in tooth pain, damage and wear because of uneven contacts and load distribution between teeth and damage to the gums and tissues also due to unwanted contact between the lower teeth and the palate.
Causes: An overbite occurs due to reduced vertical and/or horizontal development of the lower jaw than the upper jaw or due to habits like grinding of your teeth or clenching, missing teeth, crowding of teeth, etc.
Condition: Exactly opposite of an overbite, an underbite is when the lower jaw extends too far ahead of the upper jaw or the upper jaw and teeth are placed inside compared to the lower jaw.
Causes: Underbite can happen due to genetic conditions, larger lower jaw, overcrowding of teeth, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, etc.
8. Jaw misalignment
Condition: When your jaws are misaligned, they may interfere in the settling of your teeth in their correct positions. This, in turn, leads to problems like overbite, underbite, etc.
Causes: There can be various reasons for jaw misalignment like skeletal disorders, any kind of trauma to either of the jaws or teeth, temporomandibular joint disorder, birth defects, excessive/reduced growth of either of the two jaws for any particular reasons, etc.
Why Should I get my Orthodontic Problems Treated?
If the orthodontic problems are not treated timely, they can cause mild to severe discomfort in day to day activities. The various concerns that you can face are:
1. Psychological Problems
It has been observed that usually people with protruding teeth/mal – aligned teeth are not so high on confidence and are very conscious about the way they look. Studies have shown that orthodontic treatment can affect their self-esteem very very positively.
Lisp and other speech defects related to pronunciation etc. are directly related to the position of teeth and may also occur because of certain habits in particular such as tongue thrusting.
Because of improper alignment of jaws and teeth, problems in biting and chewing food are bound to be there.
4. Gum and Teeth Related
Since malaligned teeth are very difficult to clean, gum diseases, tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn-out tooth enamel, etc. are common concerns if the condition is not treated.
Orthodontic problems hamper your looks and may also lead to reduced self – esteem and confidence.
Sleep apnea, temporomandibular joint problems, and severe headaches because of the uneven tooth and jaw relations are some other problems that may arise as a result of orthodontic problems.
How can I treat Orthodontic Problems?
Most people think that the only treatment for orthodontic problems that are issues related to the alignment of teeth and jaws is braces. Depending upon the age and stage of teeth development, there are many solutions to orthodontic problems.
1. Behaviour modification
If the problems are due to certain behaviours like thumb sucking, overuse of pacifiers, nail-biting, grinding of teeth, tongue thrusting, etc, behaviour modification interventions are needed along with orthodontic treatment.
2. Mechanical Appliances
Different types of appliances are used to put pressure on teeth and jaws to align them.
- Removable appliances – These can be removed by the patient for cleaning purposes as per their convenience such as removable plates for minor orthodontic corrections and clear aligners which can be used for both minor and some severe orthodontic problems. These also include growth modification appliances for skeletal jaw corrections which can be carried out for children in particular.
- Fixed appliances – These are tooth specific brackets that stay on to the tooth surface for the entire duration of the treatment. These include metal and ceramic (tooth colours) braces.
This solution is resorted to ONLY in case of severe skeletal/jaw mal-alignment problems in adults where other options may not give us the results that we want.
When it comes to orthodontics, there are many misconceptions prevalent. The most common of these is that orthodontic treatments are for children and for cosmetic purposes. However, we would like to reiterate that Orthodontic problems impact overall oral health and hygiene and thus it is necessary to get them treated irrespective of your age.
An adult will benefit equally from the treatment, though it might take a little longer. Also, there are many adult-friendly options of appliances available these days that take care of the aesthetics too. Please visit your dentist regularly for healthy teeth and gums.