Straighter teeth perform chewing, biting and speaking functions more effectively than crooked teeth.  In addition, a straight smile boosts confidence, is aesthetically pleasing to look at, and can help stave off a wide variety of dental ailments.

There are several types of malocclusion including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding.  Each of these alignment problems negatively impacts the functionality and cosmetic appearance of the teeth.

Here is a brief overview of some of the main disorders associated with crooked teeth:

Periodontitis – Periodontitis or gum disease begins with a bacterial infection.  The bacterial infection is caused by inadequate oral hygiene.  Crooked teeth are hard to clean effectively, which means that debris, plaque and bacteria can build up in hard-to-reach areas.  Straight teeth are much easier to clean and are at less risk of contracting gum disease.

Temporomandibular Disorder (TMJ) – Crooked teeth can lead to improper jaw alignment, which in turn causes a painful condition known as TMJ.  Severe headaches, jaw pain, lockjaw and the grinding of teeth characterize this debilitating disorder.

Tooth injury – Straight teeth creates a strong wall, which means injuries are less likely to occur.  Crooked teeth are weaker and often protrude, making them far more vulnerable to external injury.

Uneven wear – Crooked teeth cause some of the teeth to work harder than others when biting and chewing.  Straight teeth share the workload evenly, meaning less risk of injury and better aesthetics.

Teeth can be straightened using either orthodontic braces or customized aligning trays.  Orthodontic braces are usually affixed to the teeth for a set duration.  The brackets and archwires are tightened regularly by the orthodontist and removed when treatment is complete.  Fixed braces can be placed on the front side or back side of the teeth and are effective for most types of malocclusion.

Aligning trays are fully removable and are used where the malocclusion is less severe, and the teeth need to move a shorter distance.  These trays are replaced every few weeks for the duration of the treatment, and have proven to be equally effective for straightening teeth.

One of the most commonly asked questions about dental braces is whether placing them causes any pain or discomfort.  The honest answer is that braces do not hurt at all when they are applied to the teeth, so there is no reason to be anxious.  In most cases, there is mild soreness or discomfort after the orthodontic wire is engaged into the brackets, which may last for a few days.

There are two common types of fixed dental braces used to realign the teeth: ceramic fixed braces and metal fixed braces.  Both types of fixed appliances include brackets which are affixed to each individual tooth and an archwire the orthodontist fits into the bracket slot to gently move the teeth into proper alignment.  Elastic or wire ties will be applied to hold the wire in place.  Some orthodontists may use self-ligating brackets which do not require a rubber or wire tie to secure the wire.

Fixed dental braces are used to treat a wide variety of malocclusions, including overbite, underbite, crossbite, and overcrowding.  If the orthodontist has determined that the malocclusion has been caused by overcrowding, it is possible that teeth may need to be extracted to increase the amount of available space to properly align the teeth.

What to expect when getting braces

Here is an overview of what you can expect when getting braces:

Orthodontics for Children in Pasco, WA

Many children are ambivalent about getting braces.  On one hand, they like the idea of perfect teeth, but on the other hand, they are nervous about whether the braces will cause pain and discomfort.  The good news is that the placement of orthodontic braces is not at all painful, and the end result will be a beautiful straight smile.

Although patients of any age can benefit from orthodontic braces, they tend to work much quicker on pre-teens and teenagers since they are still experiencing jaw growth.  The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children should first see an orthodontist around the age of seven years-old.  An orthodontic examination may be beneficial before age seven if facial or oral irregularities are noted.

What Causes misalignment of teeth?

Poorly aligned teeth often cause problems speaking, biting and chewing.  Most irregularities are genetic or occur as a result of developmental issues.  Conversely, some irregularities are acquired or greatly exacerbated by certain habits and behaviors such as:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Thumb or finger sucking
  • Prolonged pacifier use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Poor nutrition

What’s involved when a child gets braces?

The orthodontist initially conducts a visual examination of the child’s teeth.  This will be accompanied by panoramic X-rays, study models (bite impressions), and computer generated images of the head and neck.  These preliminary assessments are sometimes known as the “planning phase” because they aid the orthodontist in making a diagnosis and planning the most effective treatment.

In many cases, the orthodontist will recommend “fixed” orthodontic braces for a child.  Fixed braces cannot be lost, forgotten or removed at will, which means that treatment is completed more quickly.  Removable appliances may also be utilized, which are less intrusive and are generally used to treat various types of defects.

Here is a brief overview of some of the main types of orthodontic appliances used on children:

  • Fixed braces – Braces are comprised of brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth and an archwire that connects the brackets.  The brackets are usually made of metal, ceramic, or a clear synthetic material which is less noticeable to the naked eye.  After braces have been applied, the child will have regular appointments to have the braces adjusted by the orthodontist.  Orthodontic elastic bands are often added to the braces to aid in the movement of specific teeth.
  • Headgear – This type of appliance is most useful to treat developmental irregularities.  A headgear is a custom-made appliance attached to wire that aids in tooth movement.  A headgear is intended to be worn for 12-20 hours each day and must be worn as recommended to achieve the intended result.
  • Retainers – Retainers are typically utilized in the third phase (retention phase).  When the original malocclusion has been treated with braces, it is essential that the teeth do not regress back to the original misalignment.  Wearing a retainer ensures that teeth maintain their proper alignment and gives the jawbone around the teeth a chance to stabilize. 

Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry that is concerned with diagnosing, treating and preventing malocclusions (bad bites) and other irregularities in the jaw region and face.  Orthodontists are specially trained to correct these problems and to restore health, functionality and a beautiful aesthetic appearance to the smile.  Though orthodontics was originally aimed at treating children and teenagers, almost one third of orthodontic patients are now adults.  A person of any age can be successfully treated by an orthodontist.

A malocclusion (improper bite) can affect anyone at any age, and can significantly impact the individual’s clarity of speech, chewing ability and facial symmetry.  In addition, a severe malocclusion can also contribute to several serious dental and physical conditions such as digestive difficulties, TMJ, periodontal disease and severe tooth decay.  It is important to seek orthodontic treatment early to avoid expensive restorative procedures in the future.

What problems can orthodontics treat?

Orthodontics can treat a wide range of dental problems and in most cases, completely realign the teeth.  Orthodontists may work alone, or in combination with a maxillofacial surgeon.

The typical irregularities requiring orthodontic treatment are as follows:

How can orthodontics help?

Orthodontic dentistry offers techniques which will realign the teeth and revitalize the smile.  There are several treatments the orthodontist may use, depending on the results of panoramic X-rays, study models (bite impressions), and a thorough visual examination.

Fixed dental braces can be used to expediently correct even the most severe case of misalignment.  These braces consist of metal or ceramic brackets which are affixed to each tooth and an archwire which is used to gradually move the teeth through the duration of the treatment.

Removable appliances include headgear (which consists of a metal wire device attached to customized braces), retainers, Invisalign® aligners (which are almost invisible to the naked eye), palate expanders and tooth movers.  Faceguards are generally used to correct developmental delays in both the upper and lower jaw, and palate expanders are used to combat overcrowding.

Whatever the dental irregularity or the age of the individual, orthodontic appliances can properly realign the teeth and create a beautiful smile.

The benefits of orthodontic treatment often go beyond the obvious physical changes of an improved bite and straighter teeth; it’s also a great way to improve a person’s overall self-image.   While having beautiful straight teeth is important, even more important is the need to alleviate any potential health problems associated with the teeth or jaw.  Crooked teeth or jaw problems may contribute to improper cleaning of teeth, leading to tooth decay and, possibly, gum disease or total tooth loss.  Orthodontic problems that go untreated can lead to chewing and digestion difficulties, speech impairments, and abnormal wear of tooth surfaces.  Over time, excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth can affect the jaw joints leading to problems such as headaches or face and neck pain.

The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children get an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7.  Though orthodontic treatment can be done at any age, timely treatment ensures maximum dental health. 

With all of the recent advancements in orthodontics, wearing braces has never been easier.  State-of-the-art appliances and treatments are now available, from traditional metal braces, to clear and tooth colored brackets, to NASA type wires that are heat activated and require fewer adjustments!  Some patients may even be candidates for treatment with Invisalign, a revolutionary way to straighten teeth using clear, retainer type aligners that require no braces or wires!

If treatment is necessary, we will thoroughly discuss which treatment option is best suited for you!

Reasons for orthodontic treatment (braces) adults & children:

Specific to children:

What does orthodontic treatment involve?

Orthodontic treatment involves three phases:

1.  Planning Phase – Your first couple of visits may include the following:

After careful planning, your orthodontist will design and apply braces or fabricate custom-made appliances for you.

2.  Active Phase – Active treatment involves visiting your orthodontist on a regular basis for adjustments and following specific treatment requirements to ensure successful treatment.

3.  Retention Phase – When treatment is completed, the braces and/or appliances are removed and a new appliance is made.  Usually these retainers are removable and will maintain the changes made to your teeth if worn continuously until the teeth and bone are stabilized in their new positions.

Treatment and retention times vary depending on each individual case.  Your orthodontist will ensure you have a successful treatment for a beautiful smile that can last a lifetime. 

Orthodontics is one of many dental specialties.  The word “orthodontics” is derived from the Greek words orthos, meaning proper or straight and odons meaning teeth.  Orthodontics is specifically concerned with diagnosing and treating tooth misalignment and irregularity in the jaw area.  Initially, orthodontic treatments were geared toward the treatment of teens and pre-teens, but these days around 30 percent of orthodontic patients are adults.

There are many advantages to well-aligned teeth, including easier cleaning, better oral hygiene, clearer speech and a more pleasant smile.  Though orthodontic treatment can be effective at any age, the American Dental Association suggests that an orthodontic assessment should be performed around the age of seven.  The earlier orthodontic treatment begins, the more quickly the problem can be successfully resolved.

What problems can be treated with orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a versatile branch of dentistry that can be used alone, or in combination with maxillofacial or cosmetic dentistry.

Here are some of the common conditions treated with orthodontics:

Orthodontic Solutions

Orthodontics is a technologically advanced field which offers many sophisticated solutions to malocclusions and other cosmetic problems.  The orthodontist will generally perform a visual examination, panoramic X-rays, and study models (bite impressions) in order to assess the exact nature of the discrepancy.

When a diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of orthodontic treatment options available.

Here is an overview of some of the most common treatments:

A malocclusion is an incorrect relationship between the maxilla (upper arch) and the mandible (lower arch), or a general misalignment of the teeth.  Malocclusions are so common that most individuals experience one, to some degree.  The poor alignment of the teeth is thought to be a result of genetic factors combined with poor oral habits, or other factors in the early years.

Moderate malocclusion commonly requires treatment by an orthodontist.  Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the treatment of malocclusions and other facial irregularities.

The following are three main classifications of malocclusion:

Reasons for treating a malocclusion

A severe malocclusion may lead to skeletal disharmony of the lower face.  In a more extreme case, the orthodontist may work in combination with a maxillofacial dentist to reconstruct the jaw.  It is never too late to seek treatment for a malocclusion.  Children and adults alike have completed orthodontic realignment procedures and have been delighted with the resulting even, straight smile.

Here are some of the main reasons to seek orthodontic treatment for a malocclusion:

How is a malocclusion treated?

A malocclusion is usually treated with dental braces.  The orthodontist takes panoramic X-rays, conducts visual examinations, and takes bite impressions of the whole mouth before deciding on the best course of treatment.  If a malocclusion is obviously caused by overcrowding, the orthodontist may decide an extraction is the only way to create enough space for the realignment.  However, in the case of an underbite, crossbite or overbite, there are several different orthodontic appliances available, such as:

Orthodontic braces were historically associated with teenagers.  Today, an increasing number of adults are choosing to wear braces to straighten their teeth and correct malocclusions (bad bites).  In fact, it is now estimated that almost one third of all current orthodontic patients are adults.

Orthodontic braces are predictable, versatile, and incredibly successful at realigning the teeth.  Braces work in the same way regardless of the age of the patient, but the treatment time is greatly reduced in patients who are still experiencing jaw growth and have not been affected by gum disease.  In short, an adult can experience the same beautiful end results as a teenager, but treatment often takes longer.

Can adults benefit from orthodontic braces?

Absolutely! Crooked or misaligned teeth look unsightly, which can cause a low self-esteem and a lack of self confidence.   Aside from poor aesthetics, improperly aligned teeth can also cause difficulties biting, chewing, and articulating clearly.  Generally speaking, orthodontists agree that straight teeth tend to be healthier teeth.

Straight teeth offer a multitude of health and dental benefits including:

Fortunately, orthodontic braces have been adapted and modified to make them more convenient for adults.  There are now a wide range of fixed and removable orthodontic devices available, depending on the precise classification of the malocclusion.

The most common types of malocclusion are underbite (lower teeth protrude further than upper teeth), overbite (upper teeth protrude further than lower teeth), and overcrowding where there is insufficient space on the arches to accommodate the full complement of adult teeth.

Prior to recommending specific orthodontic treatment, the orthodontist will recommend treatment of any pre-existing dental conditions such as gum disease, excess plaque, and tooth decay.  Orthodontic braces can greatly exacerbate any or all of these conditions.

What are the main types of orthodontic braces?

The following are some of the most popular orthodontic braces:

Traditional braces – These braces are strong and tend not to stain the teeth.  They are comprised of individual brackets which are cemented to each tooth and accompanied by an archwire which constantly asserts gentle pressure on the teeth.  Traditional braces are generally metal but are also available in a clear synthetic material and “tooth colored” ceramic.  The ceramic brackets are usually more comfortable than the metal alternative, but can become discolored by coffee, wine, smoking, and certain foods.

Invisalign® – Invisalign® aligners are clear trays and should be worn for the recommended amount of time each day for the quickest results.  Invisalign® aligners are clear trays, and should be worn for the recommended amount of time each day for the quickest results.  Invisalign® aligners are more comfortable and less obtrusive than traditional braces but also tend to be more costly.  Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

Lingual braces – These appliances are usually metal and fixed on the tongue side of the teeth, therefore cannot be seen when a patient smiles.  Lingual braces tend to be moderately expensive and can interfere with normal speech.

Orthodontic treatment is highly predictable and immensely successful.  Depending on the severity of the malocclusion (bad bite) or irregularity, orthodontic treatments may occur in either two or three distinct phases.

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 biting, chewing and speaking functions of the jaw.  There are several types of irregularities, including:

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 perseverance of the patient.

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:

Phase 2 – The Active Phase

All of the above diagnostic tools will be used to diagnosis 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 may be fixed or removable.  Most commonly, traditional fixed braces are affixed, which utilizes individual dental brackets connected by an archwire.  Lingual braces are also fixed, but fit on the inside (tongue side) of the teeth to make them less visible.

Removable devices are an alternative to fixed braces.  Examples of removable devices include the Invisalign system, headgear and facemask.  These devices are designed to be worn for a specified amount of hours each day to expedite treatment.

Whatever the orthodontic device, the orthodontist will regularly adjust it to ensure adequate and continual pressure is being applied to the teeth.  It is essential to visit the orthodontist at the designated intervals and to call if part of the device breaks or becomes damaged.

Phase 3: The Retention Phase

When the teeth have been correctly aligned, fixed braces and removable devices will be removed and discontinued.  The most cumbersome part of the orthodontic treatment is now over. 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.  Retainers need to be worn for a specified amount of time per day for a specified time period.  During the retention phase, the jawbone will reform around the realigned teeth to fully stabilize them in the correct alignment.

The following are the most commonly used terms in orthodontics.  If you have any questions about orthodontics or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our office.

Anterior Teeth: The upper and lower six front teeth on each arch.

Appliance: Any orthodontic device which moves or retains teeth.  Appliances may also alter the positioning of the jaw.

Arch: The entire upper or lower jaw.

Archwire: The metal wire that connects orthodontic brackets.  This wire guides the teeth into their new alignment.

Band with bracket: Metal bands (rings) that are generally cemented around the back teeth.

Braces: Fixed orthodontic appliances designed to align teeth.

Brackets: The tiny metal, ceramic or clear brackets that are affixed to each individual tooth on the arch.

Brushing: This is a crucial part of home dental care.  Orthodontists recommend those wearing braces to brush after every meal and snack to eliminate bacteria and plaque.

Buccal: The outer (cheek) side of posterior teeth in the lower and upper arches.

Cephalometric Radiograph: A side X-ray of the face and head used to show growth and development.

Chain: Elastics connected together and placed around the brackets to stabilize the archwire and gently close spaces.

Class I Malocclusion: Molars are correctly aligned, but there is an anterior/posterior crossbite, an openbite or overcrowding on the arches.

Class II Malocclusion: Also known as an overbite.  The upper front teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth.

Class III Malocclusion: Also known as an underbite.  The lower front teeth are positioned further forward than the upper front teeth.

Closed Bite: The upper front teeth completely overlap the bottom teeth causing a deep overbite.

Congenitally Missing Teeth: Some permanent teeth fail to develop and erupt due to genetic factors.

Crossbite: A malocclusion in which the upper back teeth bite inside or outside the lower back teeth, or the lower front teeth bite in front of the upper front teeth.

De-banding: The removal of orthodontic bands from the teeth.

De-bonding: The removal of affixed orthodontic brackets from the teeth.

Diagnostic Records: Records used to assess, plan and implement treatments.  These records usually include medical and dental history, radiographs, panoramic radiographs, bite molds and intraoral/extraoral photographs.

Digital Radiograph: Digital X-rays of the teeth which can be viewed, stored, and transmitted via computer.

Elastics: Some braces may require that elastic rubber bands be attached to exert additional pressure to an individual tooth or a group of teeth.

Eruption: The way in which teeth surface through the gums inside the mouth.

Fixed Orthodontic Appliances: Orthodontic appliances which are affixed to the teeth by the orthodontist and cannot be removed by the patient.

Flossing: An essential part of home care that removes debris and plaque from above and below the gumline.

Functional Appliances: Orthodontic appliances that use the muscle movement created by swallowing, eating and speaking to gently move and align the teeth and jaws.

Gingiva: The gums and soft tissue around the teeth.

Headgear: A removable appliance comprised of a brace and external archwire.  This device modifies growth and promotes tooth movement.

Impressions: Teeth impressions are taken to allow the orthodontist to see exactly how a patient’s teeth fit together.

Interceptive Treatment: Treatment performed on children who have a mixture of adult and baby teeth.  Early treatment can help reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment in the future.

Invisalign®: A newer, removable type of dental aligner that is completely transparent and doesn’t interfere with eating because it’s removable.  Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

Ligating Modules: An elastic donut-shaped ring which helps secure the archwire to the bracket.

Ligation: Securing the archwire to the brackets.

Lingual Side: The side of the teeth (in both arches) that is closest to the tongue.

Malocclusion: Literally means “bad bite” in Latin, and refers to teeth that do not fit together correctly.

Mandible: The lower jaw.

Maxilla: The upper jaw.

Mouthguard: A removable plastic or rubber device that protects teeth and braces from sporting injuries.

Open Bite: Upper and lower teeth fail to make contact with each other.  This malocclusion is generally classified as anterior or posterior.

Orthodontics: The unique branch of dentistry concerned with diagnosing, preventing and correcting malocclusions and jaw irregularities.

Orthodontist: A dental specialist who prevents, diagnoses and treats jaw irregularities and malocclusions.  Orthodontists must complete two or three additional years of college after dental school and complete a residency program.

Palatal Expander: A removable or fixed device designed to expand the palate in order create room on either the upper or lower arch.

Panoramic Radiograph: An extraoral (external) X-ray that shows the teeth and jaws.

Plaque: The sticky film of saliva, food particles and bacteria that contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.

Posterior Teeth: Back teeth.

Removable Appliance: An orthodontic brace or device that can be removed at will by the patient.  It must be worn for the designated amount of time each day to be effective.

Separators: A wire loop or elastic ring placed between the teeth to create room for the subsequent placement of bands or orthodontic appliance.

Space Maintainer: A fixed appliance used to hold space for permanent (adult) tooth.  This is usually used when a baby tooth has been lost earlier than anticipated.

Wax: Orthodontic relief wax is a home care remedy used to alleviate irritations caused by braces.

Wires: Attached to the brackets to gently move the teeth into proper alignment.