The field of orthodontics is most commonly associated with treatment for pre-teens and teenagers, but an increasing amount of adults are choosing to correct jaw irregularities (malocclusions) and misaligned teeth with orthodontics. It is now estimated that approximately one third of all orthodontic patients are adults and that perticular treatment is called adult orthodontics. The major advantage of treating irregularities at a young age is that orthodontic appliances are widely accepted in youth and ideal alignment can be achieved before adulthood. Most orthodontists agree, however, that it is never too late to get braces.
Aside from the pleasing aesthetic of a beautifully straight smile, correcting malocclusion and teeth misalignment with braces is beneficial for a number of other reasons:
Reduced Tooth Decay – Malaligned teeth can make maintaining adequate oral hygiene incredibly difficult. Hard-to-reach spaces can become breeding grounds for the oral bacteria that cause dental caries.
Reduced Wear and Tear – Chewing capability is impacted by malocclusion. Improper alignment means that as food is chewed, force is not evenly distributed. This can lead to flattened teeth and lopsided wear and tear on dental enamel.
Relief of Jaw Pain – Not only does a comfortable bite distribute pressure evenly across teeth, it can also create smooth, pain-free dental function. Patients with malocclusion experience jaw joint disorders (TMJ dysfunction) that create clicking, popping, and discomfort when opening and closing the mouth.
What Types of Misalignment Require Braces?
An oral health professional can successfully treat jaw irregularities and teeth alignment issues with orthodontic braces. Here is a brief overview of the most common types of issues and alignment irregularities that require braces:
Overbite – An overbite occurs when the maxilla (upper jaw) protrudes further than the mandible (lower jaw). This condition can give the chin a sunken appearance and make the smile look toothier than normal.
Underbite – An underbite occurs when the mandible protrudes further than the maxilla. This condition may be the result of growth irregularities and can make the chin look overly large.
Overcrowding – Overcrowding occurs when there is insufficient room for the adult teeth to erupt and align. In some cases, a tooth or several teeth may need to be extracted to provide room on the arch for proper alignment.