What Is Orthodontics?

Although you’ve most likely heard the term orthodontics before, you may not be familiar with what it actually means. You may not even be sure what an orthodontist really does. Even orthodontic patients can sometimes have trouble understanding the ins and outs of the topic! At Lincoln Orthodontics, we know that the more informed you are about what we can do for you, the more active you will be in your own treatment process. In our experience, patients who participate more fully in their orthodontic journey tend to have the best experiences and outcomes, so it’s important to us that you have a clear understanding of who we are and what we do in order to fully benefit you and your smile! Let’s take a closer look at what orthodontic care entails, and how Drs. Harre and Willett can use it to enhance your oral health.

Orthodontic basics

Underneath the umbrella of general dentistry, orthodontics is a specialty that focuses on correcting teeth and jaws that are improperly positioned. Orthodontists are able to provide this kind of care and treatment after studying the way teeth and jaws develop, and the best ways to correct any issues with that development. Dentists and orthodontists both attend college and dental school, but their paths diverge at this point, with orthodontists going on to an additional few years in an American Dental Association-approved Orthodontic and Dentofacial Orthopedics training program. When someone finally becomes an orthodontist, they have the in-depth knowledge, training, and experience necessary to tackle oral issues requiring orthodontic care.

Although most people will tend to connect orthodontics with a straighter smile, the benefits don’t stop with cosmetic improvements. Orthodontic treatment can correct a wide variety of dental problems, which often leads to better oral health, as well as improved health overall. Crooked teeth are an excellent example. While they can detract from your appearance, the bigger issues is actually how their poor positioning can make it difficult to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from bacteria. This not only increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease, the misalignment can also cause extra stress on the chewing muscles. This may lead to frequent headaches, TMJ discomfort or syndromes, or pain in the neck, shoulders, or back.

There are several common dental issues that may benefit from orthodontics, such as:

  • Overbite — where the upper front teeth lie too far forward and stick out over the lower teeth.
  • Underbite — causing a “bulldog” appearance, where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth are too far back.
  • Crossbite — in normal bites, the upper teeth will be out over the top of the lower teeth when biting down. With a crossbite, this does not happen. There are a few different types of crossbites, depending on where the upper teeth fall in relation to the lower ones.
  • Open bite — leaving a noticeable space between the biting surfaces of the front or side teeth when the back teeth bite together.
  • Misplaced midline — where the center of the upper front teeth doesn’t line up with the center of the lower front teeth.
  • Spacing issues — gaps in between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that don’t “fill up” the mouth.
  • Crowding issues — there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate.

If you’ve struggled with any of these issues, you could be a good candidate for orthodontic treatment with Lincoln Orthodontics, and we invite you to get in touch with our Lincoln office to schedule a free smile examination. Our complimentary examination gives Drs. Harre and Willett the chance to evaluate your orthodontic needs and address any concerns you have about your oral health. Through a variety of diagnostic tools, our doctors will be able to determine if orthodontic treatment could be beneficial to you. These tools may include:

  • diagnostic records, including x-rays, photos, and impressions
  • a full medical and dental health history
  • a clinical exam

At Lincoln Orthodontics, we analyze each patient’s specific needs based on this exam and accompanying records, because we believe that in-depth planning leads to the best results and a higher level of patient satisfaction. We’ll sit down with you and discuss treatment options, financial options, and time frames for treatment, and we encourage you to ask any questions you have at this point. During this initial appointment, our doctors will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan based on your particular issues and goals.

Orthodontic treatment options

Orthodontists use several different types of appliances to help move teeth into more desirable positions and retrain the muscles of the jaw. Most orthodontic appliances work by placing gentle, continuous pressure on the teeth and jaws, and can be either fixed or removable. Because every patient is unique, which orthodontic approach we recommend will depend upon your specific needs and the severity of your problem.

Young girl smiling wearing braces

Fixed appliances

Braces: Traditional metal braces tend to be the most easily recognized orthodontic appliance, and they are the most commonly recommended as well. With braces, bands are fixed around the teeth and brackets are bonded to the front of the tooth. Arch wires will pass through the bands, and be attached to the brackets. Modern metal braces are much sleeker and more comfortable than they used to be. Patients can choose brightly colored bands or go with a less conspicuous choice like clear or lingual braces to keep their treatment discrete. 

At regularly scheduled appointments with us, we will tighten and adjust the arch wire, and the resulting pressure on the teeth will begin to gradually move them into new and improved positions. On average, this can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on your particular case.

Fixed space maintainers: Baby teeth are sometimes lost prematurely, and it’s important to keep the remaining teeth from crowding that empty space out. Lincoln Orthodontics can provide customized space maintainers that fit into the open space until the permanent tooth erupts.

Palatal expander: This device widens the arch of the upper jaw using a plastic plate that fits over the roof of the mouth. Gentle outward pressure is applied to the plate by a turning mechanism which gradually widens the palate by separating the joints in the bones of it.

Removable appliances

Aligners: Clear aligner therapy is the most popular alternative to traditional braces for teens and adults, with Invisalign being the clear aligner system most people are familiar with. These aligners move teeth a similar way fixed appliances do, but they are removable and don’t come with the same restrictions for oral hygiene and diet that can accompany traditional wires and brackets. They are virtually invisible and easy to remove, making them very popular with both orthodontists and orthodontic patients for treating common dental issues effectively but discreetly.

Jaw repositioning appliances: Also called splints, these devices can be worn on either the top or lower jaw, and are used to help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position.

Removable retainers: Many people are familiar with these types of retainers, but don’t always realize how important they are to the success of any orthodontic process. After active treatment has been completed, retainers are worn over the teeth to prevent them from shifting back to their previous positions. Retainers must be worn as directed to keep the teeth straight in the long-term.

family with braces

Creating smiles that last a lifetime in Lincoln with Lincoln Orthodontics

At Lincoln Orthodontics, we believe everyone deserves a healthy, beautiful smile they love! Drs. Harre and Willett practiced as general dentists before completing their specialty training to be certified orthodontists, giving them well-rounded experience in routine dental care as well as the best oral hygiene practices to compliment orthodontic treatment. Our talented team is dedicated to providing every patient nothing less than the best orthodontic experience, from our top-notch technology to our amazing atmosphere. If you’re in Lincoln or the surrounding area, and want to learn more about all the ways orthodontics could benefit you and your smile, get in touch with us today to schedule your free smile exam with Drs. Harre and Willett. We’ve got your very best smile waiting for you!

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