Behind every beautiful smile and happy patient is a lot of hard work! Here is an overview of what happens during orthodontic (teeth alignment) treatment.
Your dentist/orthodontist collects records to assist in creating a treatment plan to solve your main orthodontic issue as well as identify potential problems and how to overcome them.
Did you know that general dentists in Singapore are allowed to treat orthodontic cases too? More complex cases (that may require combined jaw surgery and braces, severe tooth impactions) usually require an orthodontic specialist (orthodontist).
Your first visit will comprise of:
- Discussion of your treatment goals: It is important to be open with your chosen dental practitioner on what you would like to correct and what you would like to achieve. Photos (of yourself or celebrities) can help to visualize the result you desire. This part of the initial consultation is of paramount importance because treatment goals guide treatment planning.
- Medical history taking: There is no absolute contra-indication for starting orthodontic treatment but your dentist may be reluctant to start if you are currently pregnant, if you suffer from an eating disorder (bulimia or anorexia nervosa) or if you are receiving psychiatric care. Should you become pregnant during orthodontic treatment, you do not need to stop your treatment.
- Dental examination: Your dentist will be assessing the level of oral hygiene and your bite pattern.
- Dental x-rays: panoramic, lateral cephalogram (measured to assess growth and skeletal pattern, incisor angulation), bitewings (to check for hidden cavities)
- Photographs of the face and teeth: Orthodontic treatment can improve the form of the face, especially in growing children and may affect the lip contour in adults.
- Study models (traditional moulds and bite records or 3D scans)
These records are essential when planning an orthodontic case. Half of the treatment success comes from proper planning.
Traditional fixed braces (metal or ceramic), which use individual brackets connected by an archwire, are most commonly used. Lingual braces are practically invisible . They are fixed to make them less visible on the side of the teeth facing the inside of the mouth.
Removable appliances can also be used. Examples of removable appliances are clear aligners (such as Invisalign) or other removable appliances (expanders, Twin Block etc). These appliances are intended to be worn a specified number of hours per day.
Periodic checks are required to ensure that things are proceeding smoothly and for adjustments to your appliance. If your brace/appliance is damaged or broken, contact your treating dentist immediately.
Once the teeth have been aligned and the bite is finalized, fixed braces are removed and removable appliances are discontinued. Congratulations on completing your orthodontic treatment!
Retainers are used to ensure that your teeth do not move after orthodontic treatment . The retention process is lifelong (or as long as the patient desires straight teeth).
Fixed retainers (wire that is glued to the back of the upper and lower front teeth) or removable retainers will be prescribed. Most dentists will advise using both types of retainers simultaneously so that you have a backup should a retainer fail, get lost (unfortunately very common) or if the patient decides to stop wearing the removable retainer.
Retainers must be worn for a given amount of time every day for a specified period of time. In the beginning (6-12 months), you should wear your retainer almost 24/7. The jawbone must solidify around the realigned teeth during the retention process, to secure them in the proper alignment. This takes about 12 months.
Since our skeleton is constantly remodeling throughout life, retainer wear after the first 12 months is essential to prevent relapse (where the teeth start to shift out of alignment).
Dr Jaclyn Toh graduated with honours from the Dublin Dental School and Hospital of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. She is a member of the Singapore Dental Association, the College of General Dental Practitioners Singapore and the Aesthetic Dentistry Society of Singapore.
Dr Toh has been pursuing excellence from the start. Her passion is combining restorative and cosmetic dentistry with orthodontics, for comprehensive dentistry.