Common medical questions and answers through blogs and articles

Alternatives to Braces

Braces can be the bane of one’s existence – not only for the teens who wear them, but the parents as well.  For kids, braces come during those awkward teenage years – a time fraught with angst over acne or other physical changes, and slapping on something that makes the teeth look the grille of a 1955 Rambler, sure doesn’t help matters much.  For parents, it is a pain as well … if their workplace sponsors a dental plan, orthodontia regimens may be included, partially or in total, but, if not – the price of braces can take a big bite out of the household budget, not to mention taking time off from work to transport kids to the orthodontist for regular appointments.

Be Proactive

You are probably not the first parent to wonder about alternatives to moving teeth into proper alignment.

Genetics Are a Big Factor

To begin with, a severe overbite or underbite is usually due to an underlying skeletal discrepancy between the jaws; crowding or spacing is due to an arch length-tooth size discrepancy.  That sounds a little technical, but … you and your spouse may have been blessed with straight teeth and never undergone an orthodontic regimen.  So, you figure it will be easy peasy for your offspring, right?  But the teeth are not the only factor, because the shape of the mouth also is important.  For example, if you have small arches and small teeth and your spouse has larger arches and larger teeth everything falls into place and the kiddo lucks out, BUT, if your child gets your smaller arches and your significant other’s larger teeth, then there will be crowding of the teeth.  Large arches and small teeth will cause excessive spacing.  Yikes – genetics can get ugly sometimes, and these things are out of your control.

Help Future Orthodontic Conditions

If you want to nip the braces regimen in the bud, you might wish to schedule your child for an orthodontic consultation by age 7 or 8 and continue seeing that specialist on a regular basis.  While age 7 or 8 is much too early to consider placing braces on the teeth, by monitoring the progress of your child’s teeth, the orthodontist is able to get some baseline measurements of the teeth and jaws and to regularly monitor the growth and development of these structures.   Regular orthodontic consultations may lend itself to the removal of some baby teeth before they loosen and permit proper alignment of the permanent teeth into the arches for optimal position.    Additionally, early extraction of a baby tooth due to dental decay or an unfortunate accident, could have severe orthodontic consequences that will not show up for years.  Conversely, keeping a baby tooth in place for a longer period of time, will help maintain the space for the permanent teeth, also referred to as the “secondary dentition”.   Consulting with an orthodontist does not reflect on your pediatric dentist’s good work at all, in fact, your general dentist may even recommend this consult.  And, what if your proactive efforts do not work out and your child must have braces?  Is there an expedited way to get those teeth straightened out?  If you are looking to be proactive about your childs’ dental health contact a dentist today for help with your questions.

Braces Yesterday

Back in the day, having crooked teeth meant many years of wearing metal braces that wrapped around each tooth and were connected with a taut thin metal wire.  At least once a month, orthodontic patients were subjected to the orthodontist pulling on the wire – the gizmo used resembled the key that took off a sardine can.  That’s not all … during the course of the month, depending on the severity of the misaligned teeth, the patient was required to wear elastic bands which hooked onto posts on the individual metal jackets to pull the teeth this way and that.  This often created “callouses” on sensitive cheeks, so clear wax was plastered onto the metal to thwart excessive irritation.  Severe cases of overbites required a headgear to pull the teeth up and back – sometimes two sets of headgear at one time were put in place for faster movement.  This whole ordeal made kids miserable.  Sometimes the teeth were sore after an orthodontic visit and a liquid diet may have been in order for a day or two.

Metal Braces Today

The preferred regimen that an orthodontist will utilize to correct the alignment of the tooth and bite are based on his or her expertise in the field, coupled with an extensive evaluation of each new patient.  That assessment reviews the alignment of the teeth and bite and studying the patient’s face, bones and gums.  It is not a cookie-cutter regimen at all, and, the orthodontic specialist must determine which teeth need to be moved, and where they will go, before deciding if an expedited re-alignment regimen will work, or a more-traditional approach.

There are two modern methods used today – one, the radical “Six-Month Smiles” done using braces, or, the use of aligners, in a process known as “Invisalign”.  Both regimens rely on appliances to move the teeth.

The “Six-Month Smiles” short-term orthodontic treatment is the most-widely used regimen to give patients straight teeth in a matter of months – six months to be exact.  It is used extensively on adults to give an improved cosmetic appearance with minimal effort and/or self-consciousness on the part of the patient.  These are braces that blend in with your teeth, thanks to clear brackets and tooth-colored wires.  The cost is not as prohibitive as “Invisalign” but it does depend on each patient’s needs.

Another alternative, depending on the severity of misalignment of the teeth, is “Invisalign”, which varies greatly from the semi-permanent braces mentioned above in the “Six-Month Smiles” regimen.  The time for correction of misalignment is approximately one year, but the biggest distinction is that the appliance is not permanently attached to the teeth, but is removable.  With “Invisalign” the patient receives nearly invisible plastic aligners that are custom-made to fit over the teeth.  There will be a new set of aligners every two weeks for the duration of treatment.  “Invisalign” works well for adults, and may also work for teen’s needs, depending on the severity of the patient’s misalignment of teeth and/or jaw structure.  It is an excellent product for addressing mouth alignment, crowding and gapping issues that wreak havoc with the smile or affect eating.   The cost of the “Invisalign” regimen ranges from $2,000 to $8,000.

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