Dental orthodontics is a specialty in dentistry that focuses on the improper bites of patients. Improper biting may be the result of problems of the teeth or jaw. When treating patients orthodontically, the teeth are slowly moved and shifted into proper position by applying pressure in certain directions using bands, wires and elastics. This process of shifting teeth into a functional position can take months to years, but eventually patients are left with a new and improved mouth.
Orthodontics can focus on teeth displacement or controlling and modifying facial growth (better defined as "dentofacial orthopedics"). While orthodontic treatment can be administered for purely aesthetic reasons, (improving the general appearance of the teeth and face), it is most often prescribed for practical reasons - to provide a patient with a functionally improved bite or occlusion.
If the main goal of the treatment is fixing the displacement of teeth, then a fixed multibracket therapy is often used. Fixed multibracket therapy involves the insertion of orthodontic wires into dental braces, which can be made from stainless steel or a ceramic material for better appearance. In addition, removable appliances, or "plates", headgear, expansion appliances, and many other devices can also be used to move teeth. Functional and orthopaedics appliances are used in patients age 5 to 13, to modify the jaw if it is altered. This type of therapy is frequently followed by a fixed multibracket therapy to align the teeth and refine the occlusion.
Following dental orthodontic treatment, patients will often wear a dental retainer to maintain the newly position teeth while the surrounding bone reforms around them. Retainers are generally worn full-time for a short period (6 months to a year), and then worn periodically (typically nightly during sleep), for as long as the orthodontist recommends. While it is possible for the teeth to stay aligned without regular retainer wearing, because there are many reasons teeth will crowd with time, there is no guarantee that orthodontically treated teeth will remain aligned without the use of retention. For this reason, many orthodontists recommend periodic retainer wear for many years (or indefinitely) after dental orthodontic treatment.
Read more about the process of dental braces, including information on post care treatment recommendations, the complications and risks of braces, the different types of braces, the alternatives to braces.