Many people think of orthodontists as providing only traditional braces. However, orthodontics has come a long way in recent years and your orthodontist can treat problems with a wide variety of options. Braces can be made of many different materials optimized for strength, versatility or subtle appearance. Your treatment option may include standard braces on the outside of the teeth, clear ceramic braces that are more difficult to see, or lingual braces placed on the back of the teeth. Aligner trays are also used for orthodontic treatment. These are removable and needn't stay in the mouth as permanently as braces.
Orthodontic treatments are not used solely to improve the appearance of the teeth, though this is usually the most noticeable change to onlookers. Having teeth that are properly aligned and a correct bite is very important. If your teeth are misaligned, you may not be able to clean them properly. When your floss and toothbrush can't get the job done, your teeth will decay, develop cavities or even fall out. An incorrect bite can make it difficult to speak or eat. Over time, a bite that isn't corrected will wear your teeth unevenly. Many such problems are also uncomfortable and even painful.
If you believe that you or your child may need orthodontic treatment, you should talk to your dentist or orthodontist right away. Treatment works best when it is performed on children and adolescents. The jaw and teeth are easier to reposition while the face is still growing and developing. Once a patient has reached adulthood, treatment may become more difficult. Different treatment options must be used and the time it will take for adjustment to be complete is usually much longer. This is not to say that adults cannot see a orthodontist however, as treatment options can always be explored.
There are many signs and symptoms that can indicate a need to see a orthodontist. With children, you should look for a very late or very early loss of baby teeth. Children who regularly suck their thumbs or keep other objects in the mouth on a regular basis are at greater risk for oral problems that will need to be treated with orthodontics. Difficulty speaking, chewing, biting and closing the mouth are other early signs of a problem that you should talk to a orthodontist about. Breathing through the mouth, though a more subtle sign may also indicate a problem.
Once all the teeth have come in, you will be able to see a more visible indication of whether orthodontic treatment is necessary. If the teeth appear crowded, out of place, or protrude from the mouth, this is a problem that may need to be corrected. If the child can bite into the roof of the mouth, frequently bites into the cheek or grinds and clenches his or her teeth, talk to a dentist or orthodontist immediately. Though treatment isn't always possible until children lose their baby teeth, it's important to talk to a orthodontist early so you can assess the situation and develop a plan of treatment.