The Basics of Braces

Braces are used to correct misaligned jaws or teeth that are out of place. They’re most commonly applied to children, whose jaws are still growing and can thus be guided into proper alignment. But thanks to advancing orthodontic technology, it’s becoming increasingly possible to use braces to correct jaw alignment issues (also known as “malocclusions”) in adults. If you suspect that you or your child may need this procedure, here are some important things to know.
Are braces important?
One of the most common reasons cited for getting braces is to improve one’s appearance. While this is undoubtedly important, it is far from the whole story. When malocclusions are present in the teeth and jaw, it can make it difficult to maintain proper hygiene at sensitive spots in the mouth, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Plus, when malocclusions prevent one from chewing food properly, this can lead to digestive problems.
Who can apply braces?
Only certified orthodontists are qualified to apply braces. Orthodontists are essentially dentists with a couple of extra years of training in advanced practices. Standard dentists without this advanced training are not qualified to work with braces.
What are the signs that braces might be necessary?
If any of these conditions are present, you might want to talk to your orthodontist about the possibility of braces:
• teeth that are crowded or out of position
• frequent cheek biting
• severe over-or under-bite
• difficulty chewing or swallowing
• an off-center bite
• teeth growing in behind others
• teeth out of proportion with others
• a too-prominent or too-weak chin
• strange teeth position as a result of tooth loss
• noises in the jaw
• large spaces between the teeth
What causes misaligned teeth?
Genetics play a large role in determining how the teeth grow in, but other factors such as finger sucking, pacifier sucking, poor toothbrushing, gum disease, and early loss of baby teeth can also contribute to malocclusions.
How do braces work?
Braces work by applying slow and steady pressure to the teeth and jaw over a period of months or years. In children, as the teeth naturally grow, the braces harness that growth to guide the teeth into a proper position. In adults, the braces themselves have to apply the pressure, and it usually takes a much longer time for the benefits to be seen.
When should children visit an orthodontist?
Orthodontic organizations recommend that children should have their first consultation by the age of 7. However, if you suspect that your child may have an orthodontic problem, it’s never too early for a checkup. Remember that orthodontics is a preventative field, so the earlier a problem is caught, the more chance there is of correcting the problem.

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