Treatments for Malocclusion
A family dentist with a diverse background and wide range of skills, Dr. Allen Daniels, of Bright Dental in Bright, Indiana, is an expert in correcting misaligned teeth. Here he talks about some treatments for malocclusion and explains the advantages of each.
Malocclusion, or the misalignment of the teeth, is one of the most common complaints of dental patients. Affecting over 75% of Americans, malocclusion can contribute to speech problems, difficulty chewing and poor self-esteem when left untreated. Fortunately, in most cases, malocclusion can be easily corrected through orthodontics or cosmetic procedures. Here are a few options that are currently available to treat malocclusion.
For many people, the idea of having their teeth straightened conjures images of big, bulky metal braces. Although traditional braces are still used to treat malocclusion, they’ve improved substantially over the years. In the past, large metal bands were placed around each of the teeth. Wires were fastened to these bands and then progressively, in small increments over the course of months or years, tightened to encourage the teeth to move into proper alignment. These days, although the basic idea is the same, smaller brackets are used in place of metal bands. These brackets can be made of either metal or a clear composite material, and are cemented to the surface of the teeth. Compared to the old metal bands, metal or composite brackets are much more comfortable, less noticeable and easier to care for.
Braces can be used to treat nearly any kind of misalignment and are extremely effective. Following treatment with braces, a patient will be required to wear a retainer for some time in order to ensure that the teeth do not return to their previous positions.
A step up from braces, Invisalign has become a popular way to address malocclusion. In order to straighten the teeth, the Invisalign system uses a series of clear plastic, nearly invisible trays called “aligners.” These aligners are worn for about two weeks and then replaced by a new set. Each set is custom-made for the patient according to a personalized treatment plan designed to gently coax the teeth into their proper positions over time. These aligners are intended to be in place nearly all of the time. But, unlike braces, Invisalign aligners can be briefly removed so that the patient can brush and floss without interference. The aligners can also be removed for meals.
Although Invisalign is extremely effective at treating mild to moderate cases of malocclusion, it is not appropriate for every type of misalignment. In more extreme cases, traditional braces are a better treatment option. Invisalign is a particularly good option for adults who’ve previously worn braces but have experienced a relapse – an extremely common occurrence when someone neglects to wear his retainer for an adequate period of time after his braces are removed. In addition to being offered by orthodontists, Invisalign is becoming more widely available from general practitioners.
Adults with malocclusion may choose to forgo straightening altogether in favor of porcelain veneers. Veneers are an extremely effective way to correct nearly any cosmetic dental problem, from overcrowding to discoloration to severely misshapen teeth. Veneers work differently than other treatments for malocclusion in that they do not cause the teeth to move. Veneers are essentially custom-made porcelain or composite “shells” that cover the surfaces of the existing teeth in order to mask imperfections and create a natural-looking, perfectly spaced, properly aligned, bright white smile.
While other solutions for correcting malocclusion require a treatment course that is months or even years long, veneers are completed quickly – often in just a few visits – and the results are permanent. There is no need to wear a retainer or to undergo any long-term follow-up treatment. In addition to cosmetic benefits, veneers can also help protect teeth from future decay.
*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.