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A brief explanation of orthodontics

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Orthodontics (sometimes referred to by the less formal term, 'braces') are used to straighten out crooked teeth and adjust a misaligned bite. Read on to learn more about this type of dental device.

In what circumstances are orthodontics necessary?

It's a common misconception that orthodontics are only recommended as a cosmetic treatment, in order to improve the appearance of a person's teeth. Whilst it's certainly true that they can do this, they serve a number of other, far more important purposes.

For example, orthodontics can be used to correct a problem called 'crowding'; this is where a person does not have enough space in their mouth for their teeth. Crowding often results in the teeth being positioned too close to one another, sometimes to the point where they overlap.

This issue can make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the person to completely remove food particles and plaque from in between their teeth. This, in turn, can increase their chances of experiencing demineralisation of their tooth enamel, bad breath, as well as cavities and periodontal disease. Orthodontics can reposition crowded teeth so that there a small amount of space between each tooth. This makes it far easier for the person to remove plaque and food, and thus maintain good oral health.

Orthodontics can also correct a misaligned bite. Misalignment of a person's bite can cause minor speech impediments and in severe cases, may make it difficult for the person to chew their food thoroughly.

What causes bite misalignment and crowded, crooked teeth?

In many cases, crooked teeth or a misalignment bite are caused by genetic factors; if a person is born with a small jaw and unusually large teeth, for example, they will probably end up developing an issue with crowding.

Other factors that can increase an individual's chances of needing orthodontics include losing their first set of teeth too early or sucking their thumb on a regular basis throughout their childhood.

How do orthodontics change the position of teeth?

Orthodontics place light pressure on the teeth; the teeth respond to this pressure by moving into a different area of the mouth. As they migrate, some of the orthodontic components, such as the arch wire, need to be readjusted, to accommodate this change of position and thus ensure that enough pressure continues to be placed upon the teeth. Orthodontic adjustments usually need to be performed once every four to eight weeks.