- Ortho is Greek for straightening
- Donto is Greek for teeth
Orthodontics means straightening of teeth. It is the treatment required when one has crooked set of teeth or mismatch in the size or position of jaws.
Most common causes of malocclusion/crooked teeth are genetic inheritance, early or delayed loss of milk teeth, few habits like thumb sucking, lip sucking, tongue thrusting and so on and so forth.
The general perception that crooked teeth affect the smile and appearance of the person is not unfounded, but the more important problem it causes is generally overlooked. The crooked or mal-aligned teeth affect the overall dental health, in the sense the way teeth come together during chewing, the transfer of chewing forces to the teeth and bone, the health of the gums around the teeth and also the cleaning of teeth becomes a problem. All these lead to a myriad of problems that can be avoided by having a good set of teeth.
A decade back the goal of Orthodontist ( a specialist who treats such patients) was to just straighten the teeth and create a good smile, however with further evolution of this science, more emphasis is now laid on providing a better functioning and healthy oral cavity .
The old odage was to let all the permanent teeth erupt and then correct the malalignment. However the new school of thought propagates early detection and timely interception for overall improvement in facial growth, function and smile in totality. This new trend is called as “INTERCEPTIVE ORTHODONTIST”.
The problem with old school of thought was, it was teeth centric & did not take into account, the growth of the jaws & overall health of the oral cavity. Another drawback was that, as one would wait for all the permanent teeth to erupt before starting the treatment, the patient would have reached a stage whereby one cannot influence the growth of the jaws to compensate for the mismatch in size of the teeth & jaws. As a result to align the teeth, the Orthodontist would have to extract the sound, normal teeth & create space for the alignment. However, in case of Interceptive Orthodontics which can usually be started from the age of 7 to 8 years, one can influence the growth of the jaws & thereby increase or decrease the space as required for alignment of teeth. Thus timely intervention can save the normal sound teeth from being extracted. Also, the overall facial proportions can be remodelled to give a more aesthetic & pleasant appearance.
Another recent advance is the use of digital technology for better treatment planning. There are software that enables the Orthodontist to predict the final outcome of teeth positions & facial features. This may help the patient to actually see how he/ she might look, after treatment even before the treatment has commenced. This software uses the x-rays & images that are taken before the treatment, & then based on the amount of correction possible as determined by Orthodontist; it can give a relatively accurate picture of the patient’s face after completion of treatment. This can be a real motivator for many people to undergo treatment.