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Dental Braces: Procedure & Benefits

Dental braces are orthodontic devices that are used to treat malocclusion, i.e., to straighten crooked, misaligned, or misplaced teeth in the dental arch.  There are different types of dental braces based on the type of treatment preferred by the patient, the patient’s budget, the severity of malocclusion, etc. 

Dental occlusion is the relationship between teeth in the same and opposite dental arches. If the teeth are not aligned properly, then the condition is called malocclusion. It is the most common type of dental issue, and almost all people have some form or degree of malocclusion. Dental braces are a set of devices that can alter this misalignment and return the teeth to their proper position. 

Why is Dental Braces Treatment Required?

There are a variety of dental misalignments that are corrected using dental braces. Some of them are described below:

  • Overjet: An overjet is when the anterior teeth on the upper jaw are extended outward at an angle that they are unable to occlude with anterior teeth on the lower jaw horizontally. They can adversely impact your smile, chewing, speaking, biting, and other oral functions.
  • Overbite: An overbite is a type of tooth misalignment where upper anterior teeth stick out vertically, covering the lower anterior teeth. It is also called buck teeth and is common in children with thumb-sucking and tongue-thrusting oral habits.
  • Anterior or posterior crossbite: A crossbite occurs when the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth. Anterior crossbite occurs in the incisors and canines, while posterior crossbite occurs in molars and premolars. They can be caused by oral habits, tooth growth delays, bone structure problems, genetics, etc.
  • Spacing: Spacing or gaps between the teeth is usually hereditary in nature or can be caused due to tooth migration, early extraction, protrusive teeth, impacted teeth, abnormal tissue attachments to the gums, etc.
  • Overcrowding: Overcrowding is a common dental malocclusion that occurs if there is a lack of space on the dental arch and the teeth have to compete for space. It can be caused if the patient has a small jaw, relatively large teeth, supernumerary teeth, lingual oral habits, narrow palate, missing or broken teeth, rotated teeth, etc.
  • Open bite: Open bite is a type of malocclusion where there is a space between the upper and lower teeth, even when the patient is trying to occlude them together. It can be caused due to teeth positioning, jaw positioning, or both. It is common in children with oral habits- thumb/pacifier sucking and tongue thrusting.
  • Diastema: Diastema is the gap in the middle of the upper incisors. In children, it usually happens during the dental transition stage and is known as the ugly-duckling stage, and usually disappears when all the permanent teeth have fully erupted. However, if the gap remains afterward, then you need to get orthodontic treatment for its correction.

Pre-procedure preparation

Before you undergo the treatment, you will have to undergo a thorough diagnosis for the assessment of the severity of the malocclusion, treatment planning, etc. Diagnostic tests performed before orthodontic treatment are:

  • Physical examination
  • Intra-oral X-rays, e.g., periapical, bitewing, and panoramic radiographs
  • Frontal and lateral cephalograms
  • Facial and oral photographs
  • Gingiva health assessment

Once you are done with your diagnostic assessment, your orthodontist will explain your treatment options to you and plan out your treatment.

Procedure

The procedure to fix dental braces is as follows:

  • The surgeon will clean and polish the teeth surfaces to prepare them for dental braces. Then, they will etch the surface using an acid etchant and finally place a light bonding agent that will attach the dental brace to the tooth.
  • Once the brackets are placed, the orthodontist will thread a metal wire through them and attach any supplemental devices like bands, elastics, etc. needed. Then, the patient will be provided with a brief guide on how they should maintain oral hygiene with their braces.
  • The patient will have to come to the clinic for an in-patient checkup at least once a month for the duration of the treatment.
  • When the patient’s dental alignment has been satisfactorily corrected, the orthodontist will fabricate a pair of retainers the patient will have to wear for a couple of months to retain the effects of the treatment over a long time.

The procedure for removal of braces (clear aligners) can be described as follows:

  • The orthodontist will perform a 3D scan of the patient’s mouth to obtain a digital model of the patient’s teeth and gums. Then, the model will be run through an AI assessment for rough treatment planning.
  • This treatment plan will be assessed by an orthodontist, who will make the necessary changes and fabricate the patient’s aligner tray sets using a 3D printer.
  • The dentist will attach aligner handles to the patient’s teeth and guide the patient on how and when they need to change their aligners, how they can maintain them, etc.
  • Since removable aligners are easier to use and maintain, the patient won’t have to get orthodontic consultations as frequently. 
  • Once the treatment is complete, the patient will be provided with clear retainers to help them retain the effects of the treatment.

Methods/Techniques of Dental Braces

Broadly, there are two types of dental braces/orthodontic treatments - fixed and removable, which can be further classified based on their individual properties. The different types of dental braces are:

  • Metal braces: Traditional metal braces are fixed devices that help correct dental misalignment. Since metal is more strong, ductile, and flexible, metal braces are thinner and sleeker than other braces and take up less space in the oral cavity. They are also regarded as the most effective type of braces and can be combined with other modifications like elastics, forsus, spacers, etc., to get the desired tooth movement.
  • Lingual braces: Lingual braces is a treatment in which metallic braces are attached to the inner surfaces of the teeth. Since the braces are not visible from the outside, it is the most aesthetic and effective type of orthodontic treatment.
  • Ceramic braces: Ceramic braces treatment is performed using tooth-colored ceramic braces for better aesthetics during the treatment. Since ceramic is not as malleable and strong as metal, ceramic braces are bulkier and take up more space in the mouth.
  • Clear aligners: Clear aligners are invisible dental braces that are considered to be the best type of braces treatment for adults due to their aesthetic benefits. They are removable orthodontic molds made from transparent acrylic/plastic material in a progressive set that alters the tooth position with each set change.

Risks and Complications

There are very few risks associated with fixed dental braces, some of which are listed below:

  • Root resorption
  • Pain
  • Cuts on the tongue and cheeks
  • Bleeding and swelling in the gums
  • Dental pulp degeneration
  • Periodontal disease
  • Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD)

The potential risks of clear aligner treatment are:

  • Sore throat and tongue
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Allergic reactions to the aligners, e.g., itchiness, hives, etc
  • Dryness and swelling of the lips and oral cavity
  • Nausea
  • Gum swelling and bleeding

These risks are very rare and usually easily avoidable. However, if you are getting orthodontic treatment, you should carefully discuss them with your orthodontist and plan ahead to avoid/manage them for successful treatment and recovery. Further, make sure your orthodontist is qualified and experienced enough to provide successful treatment results and a beautiful smile.

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