Braces Can Improve Your Smile and Your Oral Health

Orthodontic treatment is used to correct a "bad bite," a condition known as a malocclusion that involves teeth that are crowded or crooked. Correcting the problem can create a nice-looking smile, but more important, orthodontic treatment results in a healthier mouth. That's because crooked and crowded teeth make cleaning the mouth difficult, which can lead to tooth decay, periodontal disease and possibly tooth loss.

Most dentists are trained to treat some minor orthodontic problems. If the dentist thinks the patient should see a specialist for treatment, he or she will provide a referral to an orthodontist.

Orthodontics is a specialty area of dentistry that is officially known as Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. The purpose of orthodontics is to treat malocclusion through braces, corrective procedures and other "appliances" to straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment. An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

Although treatment plans are customized for each patient, most wear their braces from one to three years, depending on what conditions need correcting. This is followed by a period of wearing a "retainer" that holds teeth in their new positions. Although a little discomfort is expected during treatment, today's braces are more comfortable than ever before. Newer materials apply a constant, gentle force to move teeth and usually require fewer adjustments.

Good oral hygiene is especially important when braces are present. Brushing regularly, as directed by the dentist, flossing daily and scheduling dental visits can help keep teeth healthy.

Patients with braces should maintain a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. Your dentist may recommend avoiding certain foods that could interfere with braces or accidentally bend the wires. These foods may include nuts, popcorn, hard candy, ice and sticky foods like chewing gum, caramel or other chewy candy.

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