Orthodontics is the dental specialty where misaligned teeth are moved into their correct place in the mouth by way of dental braces. Malocclusion is the technical name for a number of instances which results in teeth having to be realigned, such as crowding or an overbite. Almost all of the reasons for using the expertise of an orthodontist are health based, because if teeth are not in their exact positions, speech and digestion problems and facial disfigurement can occur (as in the case of a severe overbite) and caries or dental decay may be accelerated (caused by overcrowding and therefore difficulties with proper cleaning).
Depending on the type of problem the orthodontist has had to treat, various methods are used to keep the teeth in their exact position after the braces have been removed. Just as special instruments are used when the braced are cemented to the teeth, similar special instruments are needed for brace removal. In addition, once the actual dental braces have been detached from the teeth, the residual cement remaining on the teeth has to be removed and this is done with an instrument similar to a drill, but which is a polisher that revolves very quickly and may sound just like a dentists drill. This process is not painful at all.
In order to keep the teeth from moving out of alignment once the braces have been removed, various types of retainers are, in most cases, recommended. These retainers sometimes have to be worn for a given period until the jaw has completely stabilized; or it may be used only while one is asleep at night. One type of retainer is called an overlay and is made by taking an impression of the teeth in their perfect position. A mould of the teeth is then made from this impression and, in most cases, an acrylic material is then used in a sort of vacuum process to form a very thin overlay which, when finished, will fit perfectly over the teeth. This type of retainer is mostly used while one is asleep, as it should be worn for six to eight hours during any 24-hour period.
For those patients who had braces put on their teeth to close up large gaps or, for instance, have a very hard bite which causes the teeth to move, a special retainer is made to be affixed to the back of the teeth. This is constructed from a special metal wire and is cemented in place for a period of time determined by the orthodontist. This invisible retainer unfortunately has the drawback of creating difficulties in cleaning of the teeth and the removal of plaque build up; and certain foods may even break it.
A number of appointments will be scheduled at specific intervals over a period of time so that the orthodontist can check to see that all is well and be in a position to decide when you no longer need to wear your retainer.
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