Cosmetic dentistry is the art and science of creating a beautiful, individual and preferably natural smile. Today, there are often different treatment options available to achieve a required optimal aesthetic result, including teeth straightening using orthodontics.
In Western society, crooked teeth (unless relatively minor) have long been considered a detriment to an attractive smile. To correct this, teeth that are not in a harmonious, pleasing alignment can either be ‘straightened’ by moving them into different positions (orthodontics) or be made to ‘look straight’ by reshaping and/ or adding to their surfaces (re-contouring and veneering).
This blog (Part 1) explains the use of orthodontics. In the following blog next week (Part 2) we will explain the use of re-contouring and veneering.
Situations where teeth straightening with orthodontics is appropriate
If you are concerned with any of the following:
- The size, shape or angulation of any of your teeth.
- Unsightly gaps between your teeth.
- Crowding or overlapping of teeth.
- If there is a discrepancy between the position of the upper and lower teeth.
- Not much tooth showing at the sides of your mouth when you smile – the upper dental ‘arch’ is too narrow.
This is the method of moving teeth within the jaw bones into proper alignment with the use of appropriate forces applied to these teeth. Pressure to the teeth is exerted by pre-tensed wires attached to small brackets that are bonded (‘glued’) to either the outside or the inside surfaces of the teeth.
There are a number of orthodontic techniques available:
Thin wires attached to small brackets are bonded to the tooth surfaces of the teeth. These are pre-bent to exert forces on teeth, causing them to move ’through’ the bone into a different position.
External braces are attached to the outside surfaces of the teeth. The brackets can be tooth coloured or transparent and even the wires can be coated, so no, or little, metal shows.
There is a variation on this treatment called ‘Six months smiles‘ which as the name implies, often takes only about six months of treatment. The tooth-coloured brackets and wires are used, but the treatment time is 25-50% of the normal full case orthodontics; with a corresponding lower fee. However, not all cases are suitable and generally the treatment is restricted to just the front teeth (that show).
Internal braces have brackets and wires fitted to the inside surfaces of the teeth, rendering them ‘invisible’.
There are times when there may not be a choice available between these two (internal and external) techniques because one or other is more particularly indicated. On the whole, external braces are less uncomfortable, don’t impinge on tongue space, but are relatively anaesthetic. Internal braces are far more aesthetic, but do impinge on tongue space, so are likely to be more uncomfortable and affect speech (at least for a time) and they do cost a bit more.
The traditional wires attached to a removable plastic plate are used relatively rarely nowadays. This technique used to be popular for children. However compliance is always a problem, so results, in general, are often not ‘ideal’!
Aligners (such as ‘Invisalign’) are fully transparent plastic appliances, made to fit over the teeth. The plastic exerts gradual pressure on selected teeth, much in the same way as ‘wires’ do. A series of these is made, each pushing the teeth slightly further along the path to ‘straightness’. Each aligner is used for a period of time in a particular order. These tend to be quite ‘aesthetic’ as they are not ‘obvious’.