The variety of options available when it comes to orthodontic treatment devices can seem overwhelming at first. Clear aligners, traditional metal braces, ceramic braces….which is best for your specific situation?
This is a difficult question to answer since each individual’s orthodontic needs are unique. Luckily, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. Your orthodontist is specially trained to evaluate each patient and devise the perfect, personalized treatment plan. But it can still be helpful for you to have a general understanding of each type of orthodontic treatment, and which might apply best in your situation.
Let’s take a look at the most common types of orthodontic treatment options, and the types of situations in which they’re recommended.
Clear aligners otherwise known as invisible/clear aligners have become a very popular option in orthodontic care. The subtle look and flexibility of invisable aligners make them an ideal option for adults. Clear aligners are less noticeable than traditional metal braces. They resemble mouth guards used for teeth protection during sports. They are custom made specifically for your mouth based on molds taken by your orthodontist. Clear aligners are removable and need to be removed for eating and to clean them regularly.
Every two weeks or so, you will have to change your aligner so that it adjusts to your changing mouth. Depending on the severity of your orthodontic needs, you will likely need to wear your clear aligner for 1-2 years. Even after your orthodontic treatment is technically “finished,” you will need to wear your invisaligner occasionally to ensure your teeth stay in place for the long run.
Traditional metal braces are the most common choice today when it comes to straightening crooked or crowded teeth. Metal braces are made of high-grade stainless steel and can produce a perfectly straight, beautiful smile even for extremely crooked or crowded teeth. This makes braces the perfect choice for severe orthodontic cases. Braces are small, metal brackets that adhere directly to your teeth using cement adhesive. The brackets are connected by archwires that can be loosened or tightened as needed to adjust to your mouth’s changing needs. Metal braces are very effective at fixing crooked or crowded teeth, crossbites, and other serious jaw problems.
Many applications of braces also include small rubber bands that can be customized to different colors, making them a fun choice for kids. These rubber bands (also called ligatures, elastics, or o-rings) usually need to be changed out every few months, and changing colors can give you different, fun looks each time. This makes them great for showing off school colors or coordinating with the holidays.
As well as having fun color options, braces are also smaller and more comfortable than they’ve ever been, due to recent improvements in orthodontic technology. The length of time braces are needed will depend on each individual case, usually ranging from six months to three years.
While metal braces are certainly the most common type of braces, there are a few other options of braces available that may be best in some cases. Ceramic braces are one option, made out of composite materials that are available in different degrees of transparency. This means that they can be matched closely to the natural color of your teeth, making them less noticeable, yet still as effective as metal braces. Ceramic braces are a great option for those who want a more natural look.
You may have seen depictions in older movies, books, or TV shows of children wearing metal headgear (think of the dentist’s niece, Darla, in Finding Nemo). However, these types of noticeable headgear are, thankfully, heading out of common use. Instead, Forsus appliances are on the rise for correcting severely problematic overbites.
All children should be examined before the age of seven, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, to allow time for treatment of overbite or underbite to begin while it’s still early enough to correct. A Forsus appliance is a spring that is placed inside the cheeks and attaches to braces in order to move the jaw into the proper position.
If you have overcrowded teeth, some room will need to be made somehow before teeth can be adjusted into alignment using aligners, braces, or retainers. There are two main solutions for making more room: removing teeth or expanding the palate (the roof of your mouth). Previously, orthodontists typically removed teeth as a first option. However, it is becoming more common for orthodontists to instead recommend palatal expanders to help make room to align teeth. A palatal expander fits into your palate and presses lightly against your upper back teeth to slowly push your teeth farther apart. This gradual pressure will widen your palate and provide the room needed for braces or aligners to properly align your teeth.
One last type of orthodontic treatment device to consider are retainers. Retainers are designed to maintain the work accomplished by a more aggressive teeth-straightening treatment, such as braces or aligners. Retainers are made custom for your mouth by the use of molds. Most orthodontists recommend wearing your retainer every night while you sleep. This helps to “retain” the current placement of your teeth accomplished through orthodontic treatment. Occasionally, though rarely, orthodontic needs may be minor enough that a retainer alone can accomplish a straighter smile. Always follow the specific directions of your orthodontist when it comes to retainers and follow-up care. Failing to wear your retainer as often or for as long as you should will likely result in your teeth and/or your bite shifting back into poor positions, and possibly requiring further orthodontic care in the future.
Remember: Always decide on an orthodontic treatment with the in-person guidance of an orthodontist who is a member of the American Association of Orthodontists. Your orthodontic treatment plan should be carried out under the direct supervision of your orthodontist, including regular checkups and follow-up care.
Feel free to give us a call if you have questions about which type of orthodontic treatment would be best for your situation: 281-358-8551.