How Does Orthodontics Work?

There are many different appliances that can be used to help move teeth, retain muscles and affect the growth of jaws. They work by placing gentle pressure on the teeth and jaws. The extent of your problem is likely to determine which orthodontic approach is the most effective for you.

Fixed Appliances

Braces are the most common form of orthodontics and consist of bands, wires and brackets. Bands are fixed around the back molar teeth and used as anchors for the appliance, while the brackets are bonded to the front teeth. Arch wires pass through the brackets and the bands. The wire is tightened or the size of the wire is increased to put pressure on the teeth. This continual pressure gradually moves the teeth into their desired position.

Braces are usually adjusted monthly to bring the desired results. Treatment periods vary widely and can take just a few months or up to two years. Today’s braces are smaller and more efficient and show less metal than in the past. They come in bright colours for kids, and clear styles which are preferred by many adults.

Fixed Space Maintainers

Fixed space maintainers can be applied where a baby tooth is lost prematurely. A space maintainer is used to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. A band is attached to the tooth next to the empty space, and a wire is extended to the tooth on the other side of the space.

Special Fixed Appliances

Special fixed appliances may be used to control thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. These appliances are attached to the teeth by bands. Because they are uncomfortable during meals they are only used in severe situations.

Removable Appliances

Aligners (invisible aligners) present an alternative to traditional braces for adults. Serial aligners are being used by an increasing number of orthodontists and dentists to move the teeth, in a similar way as fixed appliances work. Aligners are virtually invisible and are removed for eating brushing and flossing.

Removable Space Maintainers

Removable space maintainers serve the same function as fixed space maintainers. They’re made with an acrylic base that fits over the jaw, and have wire branches between specific teeth to keep the space between them open.

Jaw Repositioning Appliances

These are also called splints and are worn on either the top or bottom jaw to help train the jaw to close in a more favourable position. They may be used for temporomandibular (TMJ) disorders.

Palatal Expanders

A palatal expander is an appliance that is used to widen the arch of the upper jaw. It is a plastic plate that fits over the roof of the mouth applying outward pressure.