Orthodontics is a field of dentistry
that specialises in straightening and
aligning your teeth and jaws.
On the practical side, a crooked bite can cause uneven wear, and teeth that don’t come through properly can damage the teeth around them. We call these ‘impacted’ or ‘unerupted’. It’s also harder to keep crooked teeth clean, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Orthodontists call these types of problems ‘malocclusions’, which just means that the teeth aren’t in the right place when the jaws are closed.
Fortunately, there’s a lot orthodontists can do to give you a straighter bite and a winning smile.
It’s exceedingly important that your orthodontic treatment is carried out properly. A treatment that’s been mishandled can lead to ongoing problems that are time-consuming and expensive to correct.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential your treatment is performed by a fully qualified orthodontist. To be an orthodontist, you have to qualify as a dentist first, then go through another two or three years’ full-time study at a university.
The New Zealand Association of Orthodontists strongly recommends that you see a registered specialist – like us! – to talk about your orthodontic problems. Registered orthodontists have to prove that they’re undertaking regular professional development, and are up-to-date with the latest treatments and best practices.
Although we sometimes wait until most of your adult teeth have come in before we begin treatment, it’s often a good idea for a child to see an orthodontist early on, so we can monitor how their bite develops and plan for any potential problems such as chalky teeth.
We generally recommend a first visit between the ages of eight and 10, but it’s never too late for orthodontic treatment. In fact, we regularly treat adults, and the number is increasing!
If your problem is a simple one, it’s possible that it could be fixed by using a removable plate. But by far the most common and effective method is braces.
Braces are bonded to your teeth and have a wire threaded through them, which applies constant gentle pressure to the teeth to gradually move them into the correct position. These can be either metal or ceramic. In selected cases an alternative to braces are clear plastic aligners called Invisalign.
It doesn’t hurt to have your braces fitted and it doesn’t damage the teeth, but it might be uncomfortable for a few days due to the tightness. Once the teeth start to move into position, the discomfort will ease. In the meantime, over-the-counter medication or warm drinks and soup will help.
How long your corrections will take depends on a lot of factors: the problem itself, how your mouth and face grows, and your own co-operation. You’ll wear braces for 12-24 months, though it can be longer for adult patients or those with extremely complex problems.
When your braces come off, we’ll usually fit a retaining device to stop the teeth moving back to their original positions. After all, we don’t want your hard work to go to waste!