Orthodontics is Not Just Straightening Teeth

In this day of instant everything, we ought to pause a minute and understand that instant is not always best. Cooked oatmeal vs. instant oatmeal? Brewed coffee vs. instant coffee? Comprehensive orthodontics vs. mail order orthodontics?

So let’s look at braces. And while you may not be in the age group for braces, you have children and grandchildren who are. 

Why do people get braces? The simple answer is to make the teeth look pretty. But is that the whole story? If the bone supporting the teeth is inadequate, then making the teeth look pretty may not be easily accomplished without damaging the teeth. There are many people who have insufficient bone support, and moving the teeth without careful x-ray analysis may cause gum recession. 

But it goes further than that. The function and position of the teeth guide the growth and development of the upper and lower jaws. Poor bone development does not only put the teeth in a bad position – it can constrict the airway. This can affect breathing, snoring, speech development, and even lead to sleep apnea later in life. 

How is a correct orthodontic analysis done? We start with photos and dental models. But that is only the start. We get an x-ray called a “cephalometric x-ray” and trace the landmarks of the teeth as well as points on the skull to analyze jaw development and proportions.  Increasingly we are using low radiation CT scans to determine the adequacy or inadequacy of the bone before we do tooth movement. It requires a detailed analysis to determine the course of treatment to maximize the benefits of treatment. And in the case of the growing adolescent, we only have one chance to guide the bone into the right position while creating a long-lasting, beautiful smile.

The orthodontist is the specialist who has these skills. And therefore, your grandkids will be in the best hands to not only create that smile but to prevent some pretty serious health problems from ever occurring. 

Lee N. Sheldon, DMD

Dr. Lee Sheldon does dental implant and periodontal therapy in Melbourne. His new book, The Ultimate Mouth Manual, may be found at all book outlets (also downloadable for free here).

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