What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a dental specialty that studies, prevents, and corrects developmental alterations, the shapes of dental arches, and the position of maxillae in order to restore the morphological and functional balance of the mouth and face, improving facial aesthetics as well.
The goal of orthodontics is tooth mobility, seeking normalization of the occlusal (chewing surface) or displacement of the entire dental set (dental arch) to correct functional disturbances of chewing. Occlusion is based on the contact that exists between the teeth of the different arches (that is, between the upper and lower teeth). The corrective treatment is mainly directed at correcting a consolidated malocclusion.
Types of Orthodontics
Interceptive Orthodontics: Interceptive orthodontics is the most technical and appropriate name for pediatric orthodontics. This type of orthodontics aims to “intercept” the growth process of the maxillofacial structure and anticipate occlusion and bite problems that the child can develop once their growth phase has ended, especially prognathism and retrognathism. Although children will often need orthodontic treatment in adolescence, interceptive orthodontics can be very useful in limiting the extent of these problems. Its main objective is to avoid more expensive and complex treatments when the anatomy of the skull has fully developed. Pediatric dentists and orthodontists are responsible for performing this type of procedure depending on the case.
Corrective Orthodontics: The corrective, complete or second-phase orthodontic treatment, is carried out in adult or adolescent patients, generally after the growth peak. It is performed once dental replacement has been completed and when the patient has all of their permanent teeth, including the second molar (the 12-year-old molar). It is important to note that there is no age limit for using orthodontic treatment. Most patients are adults, who often have to go through the rest of the specialists before starting orthodontic treatment. It is estimated that approximately 90% of the general population could benefit from orthodontic treatment.
Metal brackets are the most common and widely used orthodontic technique. Made of high-grade stainless steel, metal brackets are placed on the front of a patient’s teeth to align dental pieces. Their function is the same as any other orthodontic system: to move teeth to a correct functional and aesthetic position, improving the chewing process and avoiding an incorrect position of dental pieces from hindering the patient’s oral hygiene.
They are composed of:
- Arch: It is used to introduce the necessary pressure to the bracket and redirect the tooth to the desired position.
- Ligature: It joins the bracket to the arch, allowing the latter to apply the necessary force. Ligatures can be metal or rubber, depending on the type of force that needs to be transmitted.
- Bracket: It is used to mark the turn that will be given to the tooth. It is not always placed in the center of a dental piece, as it depends on the direction the specialist wants to give it.
Self-ligating brackets are an orthodontic system that uses special brackets which do not require ligatures. They contain a clip or cap that holds the arch with the brackets, so they do not require ligatures that join the brackets to the arch. This way, all the force can be transmitted to the teeth through the bracket. The fact that they do not have ligatures is what sets this type of orthodontics apart from traditional brackets.
Esthetic brackets, such as sapphire brackets, represent a step forward in orthodontic treatments as they use transparent brackets to blend in with the color of the tooth, the reason why they are called esthetic brackets. They are fixed appliances, just like their predecessors in metal materials.
In recent years, orthodontic treatments have also been applied to adult patients, leading to new needs to respond to, such as the need for appliances that are not visually noticeable. Hence, other materials besides metal were started to be used that could offer the patient an esthetic solution throughout the treatment.
Also known as plastic trays, aligners perform the function of traditional braces, by adjusting teeth through advanced technology. An orthodontic specialist will design the movement plan with specialized software, resulting in multiple printed plastic trays that will move teeth to the desired position. They are fully customized and bite-based and must be constantly changed to achieve the desired dental position.
Aligners are the most aesthetically pleasing option currently available. Because they can be removed, there are no food restrictions like with traditional braces, making hygiene easier. Another advantage is that treatment time can be reduced. Finally, appointments can be decreased and spaced out more.