In an increasingly appearance-conscious society, the need for orthodontics also increases. Nowadays, it’s not that our teeth are getting worse, or that visits to the orthodontist costs cheaper with the availability of dental insurance, or that braces are becoming fashion statements. Rather, it is good to note that more and more people realize the value of proper orthodontic care.
In Canada, approximately 300,000 of their children are seeing an orthodontist. In North America, the number of adults and children with orthodontic concerns reached the millionth mark in 1990s. Over the years, the numbers of individuals getting orthodontic treatment have since grown.
One of the primary responsibilities of an orthodontist is to correct malocclusion, or the incorrect alignment of teeth that leads to a bad bite. Ideally, one’s teeth are considered straight when the top front teeth slightly extend over the lower teeth while the molars meet. However, this is not true to many mouths. There are three classes of malocclusion, specifically if your teeth are crooked, crowded or turned, then that is considered a Class I malocclusion. If the upper teeth are too far forward while the lower teeth are placed too far back, the condition is considered a Class II malocclusion. It is then considered a Class III malocclusion or an underbite if the lower teeth are too far forward while the upper teeth are too far back.
Orthodontics also offer treatments for cases of crossbites or open bites. A crossbite occurs when the upper teeth do not meet the lower teeth when the person bites down and instead closes inside or outside them. An open bite refers to the condition wherein the front teeth remain apart even when the person bites down with the back teeth. Problems with improper bite can cause further problems with chewing food and may also influence speech impediments. The person can have trouble enunciating and may also develop a lisp.
What causes malocclusion? Poor oral habits including finger sucking, tongue thrusting, or sucking on the lower lips can lead to a bad bite. The condition may also be hereditary or the result of an accident.
There are many ways to treat a bad bite but opinions by experts differ on when it is best to start treatment. Depending on your condition, you can discuss with your orthodontist the treatment approach you are most comfortable with. If treatment is done during the childhood and teenage years, the orthodontist aims to move permanent teeth into their most functional positions and the specialist will time such treatments to match the patient’s development and growth spurts. Examples of malocclusion treatment options for children and adolescents are extraction, growth modification using fixed or functional appliances, braces, retainers and space maintainers.
Orthodontic treatment is also available and recommended for adults worried about malocclusion. With the advancements in teeth straightening technology, adults can still get the benefit of wearing dental braces without looking awkward or feeling insecure because they have wires and brackets on their mouths. Adults can ask their orthodontist for clear aligners, popularly known as Invisalign braces.