frequently asked questions
Orthodontic treatment is the correction of crooked teeth and jaws. It can be one of the best investments you make for your child’s health.
More adults than ever before are choosing to have their teeth straightened. If you are considering treatment, the following advice addresses the most commonly asked questions.
1. Oral hygiene
Orthodontic appliances do not cause tooth decay. Gum disease, tooth decay and permanent markings (decalcification) on the teeth can occur if orthodontic patients eat food containing excessive sugar or do not brush their teeth frequently or properly. These same problems can occur without orthodontic treatment but the risk is greater to an individual wearing braces.
It is imperative during orthodontic treatment that extra care is taken with oral hygiene and tooth brushing in particular.
Teeth may have a tendency to change their positions after treatment. This is usually only a minor change, and on average, 90% to 95% of a correction is retained. The faithful wearing of retainers should reduce this tendency. Teeth can however, move at any time, whether or not they have had orthodontic treatment this is especially true during the late teen period when active growth of the lower jaw is coming to an end. The most vulnerable teeth are those at the front. Throughout life, the bite can change adversely from various causes such as: eruption of wisdom teeth, growth or maturational changes, mouth breathing, playing of musical instruments and other oral habits. Very occasionally tooth movements will be severe enough to merit a further short course of treatment to ensure a satisfactory result.
3. Periodontal Health
The health of the bone and gums which support the teeth may be affected by orthodontic tooth movement if a condition already exists, and in some rare cases where a condition does not appear to exist. In general, orthodontic treatment lessens the possibility of tooth loss or gum infection due to misalignment of the teeth or jaws. Inflammation of the gums and loss of supporting bone can occur if bacterial plaque is not removed daily with good oral hygiene.
4. Root Shortening
In some patients the length of the roots of the teeth may be shortened during orthodontic treatment. Some patients are prone to this happening, some are not. It is nearly impossible to predict susceptibility. Usually this shortening does not have significant consequences, but on very rare occasions it may become a threat to the longevity of the teeth involved.
5. Jaw Joints
Occasionally patients may suffer pain or dysfunction in the jaw joints (T.M.J’s). This may present as joint pain, headaches or ear problems. These problems may occur with or without orthodontic treatment. Any of the above noted symptoms should be reported to the orthodontist. Some patients are susceptible to T.M.J. problems and some are not. Stress is the major contributing factor in temporomandibular disorders. Just as for painful conditions in other joints, discomfort in T.M.J’s can last from a few days to several weeks or longer.
6. Tooth vitality
Sometimes a tooth may have been traumatized by a previous accident or a tooth may be decayed or have large fillings which can cause damage to the nerve of the tooth. Orthodontic tooth movement in some cases aggravates this condition and in rare instances may lead to loss of tooth vitality and discolouration of the tooth requiring root canal treatment and other dental treatment to restore the colour of the tooth.
7. Loose appliances and discomfort
The gums, cheeks or lips may be scratched or irritated by newly placed appliances or by loose or broken appliances or by blows to the mouth. You will be given instruction on minimising these effects. Very rarely, loose orthodontic appliances may be accidentally swallowed or aspirated. You should inform your orthodontist of any unusual symptoms, or broken or loose appliances, as soon as they are noted.
Usual post adjustment tenderness should be expected, and the period of tenderness or sensitivity varies with each patient and the procedure performed. (Typical post adjustment tenderness may last 24 to 48 hours.)
8. Atypical growth
Insufficient, excessive or asymmetrical changes in the growth of the jaws may limit our ability to achieve the desired result. If growth becomes disproportionate during orthodontic treatment, the treatment may be prolonged. Growth changes that occur after orthodontic treatment may alter the quality of treatment results and may require further orthodontic treatment. In some cases of atypical growth, the bite may change so much that oral surgery is required to achieve the best possible result.