Orthodontic treatment can truly transform your smile and your life. I’m going to give you a better understanding of the basics of orthodontics.

A poorly constructed bite or occlusion can adversely affect your teeth and smile. Many types of poor bites or malocclusions are not obvious to the casual observer. Often teeth that look straight when looking at a smiling face can be hiding serious problems within the mouth. Further teeth with crowding spacing or that are overlapping are more difficult to keep clean and often don’t function properly.

Let’s look at the specific functions of your teeth. Your forefront teeth are called incisors and are used for biting into food. The teeth we commonly refer to as eye teeth are called canines. They are for tearing.

Your back teeth are called molars and premolars and perform all the chewing and grinding. Incisors that are unable to properly bite food can make eating bothersome and frustrating. Many people become self-conscious of their poor biting or chewing abilities. If the molars don’t fit together properly, the job of grinding food will be transferred to the front teeth. This extra workload can cause excessive wear on the front teeth and makes chewing less efficient.

Following are some examples of poor bites. With explanations regarding how they affect teeth function and facial appearance.

  • Overjet

The upper front teeth extend beyond the lower front teeth because they stick out. They can easily get hit, chipped or even knocked down. Biting into the food can also be frustrating because the top and bottom teeth don’t touch. Some patients will even experience speech difficulties and the lips may not fully close over the teeth. This can make the mouth look top-heavy especially from the side view.

  • Overbite

The upper front teeth bite too far down over the lower front teeth. This can result in the lower front teeth biting into sensitive tissues on the roof of the mouth. Chewing can be difficult because the jaw cannot function normally. Also, the lips don’t fit properly, which can make the mouth appear misshapen.

  • Underbite

The lower front teeth extend beyond the upper front teeth. Once again the teeth don’t touch. So biting into food is difficult or impossible. Speech difficulties can also result. The chin sticks out beyond the upper lip again causing an unbalanced profile view.

  • Crossbite

The upper teeth are biting inside the lower teeth, either at the front, back or both. This position won’t allow the teeth to function properly, resulting in many complications including uneven jaw growth. This can also make the face look crooked.

  • Open bite

The top and bottom front teeth don’t touch even when the back teeth are fully biting, which makes it difficult to bite chew and swallow. It can also cause speech problems. The lips don’t touch when closed, making the face look untidy and awkward.

  • Crowding

Any of the male occlusions we talked about can be complicated by crowded teeth, which are difficult to keep clean. An unclean mouth is just plain unattractive.

Your orthodontist will examine your teeth, bite and jaw position. Treatment options will be explained to you and a recommendation will be made. Diagnostic records are required for the doctor to accurately assess your teeth and bite. These include photographs of your face and teeth as well as x-rays of your mouth and head.

Your orthodontist will also take impressions of your teeth, which will be used to make a clay-like model of your mouth. These and possibly additional records will help the doctor diagnose your condition and create your personalized treatment plan.

Your orthodontist will use braces and possibly other types of orthodontic appliances to gently guide your teeth and jaws into correct positions. Additional appliances may be prescribed, such as elastics to help improve the alignment of your teeth and bite. Your cooperation, especially in the area of home care and oral hygiene, will be necessary to achieve a successful treatment outcome. It will require a team effort by you and the orthodontist to produce your healthy and beautiful new smile.

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