Orthodontic treatment is highly predictable and immensely successful. Orthodontic treatments may occur in two or three distinct phases depending on the severity of the malocclusion (bad bite) or irregularity.
The benefits of correcting misaligned teeth are many. Straight teeth are pleasing to look at and greatly boost confidence and self-esteem. More importantly, properly aligned teeth enhance the jaw’s biting, chewing, and speaking functions.There are several types of irregularities, including:
- Overbite – The upper teeth protrude further than or completely cover the lower teeth.
- Underbite – The lower teeth protrude further than the upper teeth causing the chin to look prominent.
- Crossbite – Some of the upper teeth may close inside the lower teeth rather than on the outside.
- Overcrowding – Insufficient room on the arch causes some adult teeth to erupt incorrectly and become rotated.
The Phases of Orthodontic Treatment
Generally, orthodontic treatment takes between six and thirty months to complete. The treatment time will largely depend on the classification of the malocclusion, the type of dental devices used to correct it, and the patient’s perseverance.
Here is a general overview of the three major stages of treatment:
Phase 1 – The Planning Stage
The orthodontist makes an exact diagnosis in order to realign the teeth in the most effective and expedient way. The first several visits may comprise of some of the following evaluations:
- Medical and dental evaluations – Dental and physical problems tend to go hand in hand. Problems in the oral cavity can lead to (or be caused by) medical problems. This evaluation aims to ensure that prior medical and dental issues are completely under control before treatment begins.
- Study model (castings/bite impressions) – The patient is asked to bite down into a dental tray filled with a gel substance that hardens around the teeth. The trays are removed from the teeth and filled with plaster to create models of the patient’s teeth. Study models enable the orthodontist to scrutinize the position of each tooth and how it relates to the other teeth.
- Panoramic x-rays – are fantastic tools for viewing potential complications or pre-existing damage to the jaw joint. X-rays also allow the orthodontist to see the exact position of each tooth and its corresponding root(s).
- Computer-generated images – Such images allow the orthodontist to plan and examine how specific treatments may affect the shape of the face and symmetry of the jaw.
- Photographs – Many orthodontists like to take “before, during, and after” photos of the face and teeth to assess how the treatment is progressing and the impact the treatment is having on the patient’s face shape.
Phase 2 – The Active Phase
The above diagnostic tools will be used to diagnose and develop a customized treatment plan for the patient. Next, the orthodontist will recommend custom orthodontic device(s) to gently move the teeth into proper alignment. This orthodontic appliance will be removable. Examples of removable devices include the Invisalign system, headgear, and facemask. These devices are designed to be worn for a specified number of hours each day to expedite treatment.
Visiting the orthodontist at the designated intervals and calling if part of the device breaks or becomes damaged is essential.
Phase 3: The Retention Phase
Removable devices are discontinued when the teeth have been correctly aligned. The most difficult part of your orthodontic treatment is now complete. The orthodontist will next create a custom retainer. The goal of the retainer is to ensure that the teeth do not begin to shift back to their original positions. To ensure effectiveness, retainers should be worn for a specific duration every day within a specified period. During the retention phase, the jawbone will reform around the realigned teeth to fully stabilize them in the correct alignment.
If you have any questions about orthodontic treatments, please contact our office.