Posts for: December, 2014
Most of us are quite familiar with what traditional braces look like. But occasionally we see more complex-looking devices being worn by young orthodontic patients: thicker wires that extend outside the mouth, with straps that may go behind the neck or over the chin. What are these devices, and why are they sometimes needed?
In general, orthodontic appliances with external parts braced by the head, neck or chin are referred to as “headgear.” These devices may be used to handle a number of particular orthodontic situations, but they all have one thing in common: They provide the additional anchorage needed to move teeth into better positions.
It may come as a surprise that teeth, which seem so solid, can actually be moved fairly easily over time. This is because teeth are not fixed directly into bone, but are instead held in place by a hammock-like structure called the periodontal ligament. Using a light, controlled force — such as the force of springy wires and elastics in traditional braces — teeth can be moved slowly through the jaw bone, like a stick being pulled through sand.
Of course, to pull a stick through sand, you need a firm anchorage — your legs, for example, bracing against a rock. Most of the time, the back teeth, with their large, multiple roots, provide plenty of support. But sometimes, the back teeth alone aren’t enough to do the job.
If a very large space between teeth is being closed, for example, the back teeth might be pulled forward as the front teeth are pulled back; this could result in poor alignment and bite problems. In other cases, the front teeth may need to be pulled forward instead of back. The back teeth can’t help here; this is a job for headgear.
Some types of headgear have a strap that goes behind the head or neck; they use the entire head as an anchorage. Other types, called “reverse pull” headgear, have a strap that comes over the chin or the forehead; they can pull teeth forward. Headgear can even influence the proper growth of facial structures — that’s why it is usually seen on preteens, whose growth isn’t yet complete.
Headgear is usually worn for 12 hours per day, for a limited period of time. In some cases, rather than headgear, appliances called “temporary anchorage devices” (TADS) may be recommended. These are tiny screws that are implanted into the jawbone in a minimally invasive procedure, and serve a similar function.
While it may not look pretty, orthodontic headgear is capable of moving teeth into their proper positions in a relatively short period of time — and ending up with a great-looking smile is what orthodontics is all about.
Sometimes, we all need a bit of prompting to do what's good for us. When Serena Girardi, the 10-year-old daughter of New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, needed to have orthodontic treatment, she was a little nervous. To help lessen her anxiety, Girardi, then 45 years old, made a deal: if she got braces, then he would too.
“What I didn't realize,” said Girardi in an interview with ESPN, “is that she only had to get four on her front teeth and I got the full mouthful.”
But that didn't stop the baseball great from keeping up his end of the bargain. In a separate deal with his son Dante, who also needed braces, Girardi agreed to wear blue rubber bands. “It's a good look,” he said. What will he do if his third child needs braces? Stay tuned...
Whether it starts as a bargain with your kids or as a promise to yourself, orthodontic treatment can offer real benefits at any age. In fact, about one out of five orthodontic patients today is an adult. Studies have shown that up to three-quarters of all adults have some form of orthodontic problem, like drifting or crowding of teeth. And having a great-looking smile not only improves self-confidence, but can also boost an adult's social life, and even enhance his or her career opportunities.
If you or your child may need braces, but you're put off by the dreary metal hardware you remember from back in the day, take heart! Plenty has changed in the field of orthodontics since you were a teenager — and it's not just the color of the rubber bands.
In many cases, clear or colorless ceramic braces can be used instead of metal ones. These stain-resistant orthodontic appliances blend in well with your own teeth, making them much less evident. It may be possible for them to be placed on the lingual (tongue) side of the teeth, where they're even less visible.
Clear aligners offer an alternative to braces that's appropriate for some people. Aligners are a series of precision-made “trays” composed of polyurethane plastic. Worn 20-22 hours per day for a period of months, these appliances gradually move teeth into an improved position. Besides being virtually invisible, another advantage of these trays is that they may be removed for eating and for important occasions. Once recommended only for adults, they have recently become available to teenagers as well.
What's the best way to find out whether you or someone in your family could benefit from orthodontics, and which treatment option best suits your individual needs? Come in to our office for a consultation! After a thorough examination, we would be happy to recommend the most appropriate treatment methods for your particular situation.
If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Clear Aligners for Teenagers.”
Each part of the human body is an intricate wonder. Take your teeth, for example: they’re so woven into everyday life we don’t notice them, yet they each work seamlessly with the jaws and mouth so we can eat, speak and even smile.
Here, then, are a few facts to help you understand — and appreciate — these tiny, amazing wonders we call teeth.
Layer Upon Layer. Rather than one solid mass, teeth are composed of different layers of slightly different tissues each with a unique role in protecting and enabling a tooth to function. Innermost is the pulp filled with connective tissue encasing blood vessels and nerves that transmit sensations to the brain. The next layer out is the dentin, a bone-like material sensitive to touch and other stimuli, which also absorbs some of the forces generated when biting or chewing. The outermost layer is enamel, the hardest material in the body and the tooth’s first defense against infection and other dangers.
Front and Center. Teeth perform different functions depending on their type and location. Front teeth are our “onstage performers” — they help us to speak and enunciate words clearly and, of course, contribute to our smile. They’re also adept at cutting through food when it first enters our mouths.
The Support Team. In keeping with our theater analogy, back teeth are our “backstage crew”: they help support our facial height, provide balance for the jaws as we swallow and protect the front teeth from too much vertical force. They’re also able to crush food before we finally swallow, which aids in the digestive process.
Intended for a Lifetime. If you consider all the environmental factors our teeth face — acidic foods, biting forces and temperature swings to name a few — you then can appreciate their resiliency. Of course, teeth have their enemies: decay, infection and trauma. With daily brushing and flossing and at least a couple of visits a year to our office for cleanings and checkups, you can help thwart many of those enemies. With both our efforts we can make sure your teeth really do last a lifetime.