Invisalign

Dental braces (also known as orthodontic braces) are a device used in orthodontics to align teeth and their position with regard to a person’s bite. They are often used to correct malocclusions such as underbites, overbites, cross bites and open bites, or crooked teeth and various other flaws of teeth and jaws, whether cosmetic or structural. Orthodontic braces are often used in conjunction with other orthodontic appliances to widen the palate or jaws or otherwise shape the teeth and jaws. They are mainly used on children and teenagers; however adults are increasingly using them as well.

Orthodontic services may be provided by any licensed dentist trained in orthodontics. In North America most orthodontic treatment is done by orthodontists, dentists in diagnosis and treatment of malocclusions—malalignments of the teeth, jaws, or both. A dentist must complete 2–3 years of additional post-doctoral training to earn a specialty certificate in orthodontics. There are many general practitioners who also provide orthodontic services.

The first step is to determine if braces are suitable for the patient. The doctor consults with the patient and inspects the teeth visually. If braces are appropriate, a records appointment is set up where X-rays, molds, and impressions are made. These records are analyzed to determine the problems and proper course of action. Typical treatment times vary from six months to two and a half years depending on the complexity and types of problems. Orthognathic surgery may be required in extreme cases.

In most cases the teeth will be banded and then brackets will be added. A bracket will be applied with dental cement, and then cured with light until hardened. This process usually takes a few seconds per tooth. If required, orthodontic spacers may be inserted between the molars to make room for molar bands to be placed at a later date. Molar bands are required to ensure brackets will stick. Bands are also utilized when dental fillings or other dental work make securing a bracket to a tooth infeasible.

An archwire will be threaded between the brackets and affixed with elastic or metal ligatures. Elastics are available in a wide variety of colors, but some orthodontists may not provide the color that would have been preferred by the patient. Archwires are bent, shaped, and tightened frequently to achieve the desired results. Brackets with hooks can be placed, or hooks can be created and affixed to the archwire to affix the elastic to. The placement and configuration of the elastics will depend on the course of treatment and the individual patient. Elastics are made in different diameters, colors, sizes, and strengths.

Modern orthodontics makes frequent use of nickel-titanium archwires and temperature-sensitive materials. When cold, the archwire is limp and flexible, easily threaded between brackets of any configuration. Once heated to body temperature, the archwire will stiffen and seek to retain its shape, creating constant light force on the teeth.

In many cases there is insufficient space in the mouth for all the teeth to fit properly. There are two main procedures to make room in these cases. One is extraction: teeth are removed to create more space. The second is expansion: the palate or arch is made larger by using a palatal expander. Expanders can be used with both children and adults. Since the bones of adults are already fused, expanding the palate is not possible without surgery to unfuse them. An expander can be used on an adult without surgery, but to expand the dental arch, and not the palate.

Invisalign Orthodontics

For some patients, Invisalign might be a viable alternative to braces. The Invisalign system uses a series of clear plastic trays to move teeth into their position over a length of time. This system is not recommended for more difficult cases, or for people whose last molars have yet to erupt. However, one of the disadvantages of Invisalign is that it usually requires a longer treatment time, especially because the appliance is removable, whereas conventional braces are always working because they are fixed to the patient’s teeth. This usually allows for a faster treatment because the patient is not tempted to remove the appliance, as they may be with Invisalign.

Patients may need post-orthodontic surgery, such as a fiberotomy or alternatively a gum lift, to prepare their teeth for retainer use and improve the gumline contours after the braces come off.

Each month or two, the braces must be adjusted. This helps shift the teeth into the correct position. When they get adjusted the orthodontist takes off the colored rubber bands keeping the wire in place. The wire is then taken out, and may be replaced or modified. When the wire has been placed back into the mouth, the patient may choose a color for the new rubber bands, which are then fixed to the metal brackets. The adjusting process may cause some discomfort, which is normal.

After getting the braces on they hurt for about 3 days – 1 week. Likewise, the same is true for elastics. Most patients switch to soft foods during this time, but in a few days, they will be able to go back to eating most of the foods that they have always enjoyed eating.

Modern orthodontists can offer many types and varieties of braces:

  • Traditional braces are stainless steel, sometimes in combination with nickel titanium, and are the most widely used.
  • Ceramic braces offer a less visible alternative. They blend in more with the natural color of the tooth and are arguably more visually appealing. Ceramic brackets are typically more brittle than stainless steel brackets and thus tend to be somewhat thicker to resist breakage.
  • Gold-plated stainless steel braces are for people allergic to nickel (a component of stainless steel), but may be chosen because they blend better with teeth, and some people simply prefer the look of gold over the traditional silver-colored braces.
  • Lingual braces are fitted behind the teeth, and are not visible with casual interaction. Lingual braces can be more difficult to adjust to, since they can hinder tongue movement.
  • Progressive clear retainers, marketed under the tradename Invisalign, may be used to gradually move teeth into their final position. These have the same effect as braces but can be removed easily for eating, etc.