Orthodontic treatment – types of treatments, effects, and costs

Leczenie ortodontyczne

Orthodontics is often reduced to the treatment of malocclusion – in fact, it is not an incorrect representation, but certainly an oversimplified one. Such a statement may suggest that orthodontic treatment of adults and children is only important for the aesthetics of the smile, and this is certainly a serious understatement.

What is orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment means all the actions taken by the orthodontist in cooperation with the dentist (and sometimes also the maxillary surgeon) which are aimed at the correct alignment of milk or permanent teeth in the mandible and maxilla. In a nutshell, orthodontic treatment is to remove malocclusions, while in a broader sense, it is also an element of dental prophylaxis and treatments improving the overall comfort of life.

What is the purpose of orthodontic treatment?

The visible effect – and therefore for many people the basic goal related to orthodontic treatment – is the correction of the malocclusion. However, the use of braces or other tools used by orthodontics is also intended to prevent degeneration within the temporomandibular joints and reduce problems with speech, breathing and even snoring.

The term ‘malocclusion’ is often an abbreviation in the context of orthodontics, because orthodontic treatment is undertaken for purposes much broader than just improving the aesthetics of a smile. Simply put, the overriding goal does not have to be to treat malocclusions with a view to a more beautiful smile but to take care of the general condition of the teeth.

Even partial progress of treatment already improves oral health, and the patient can look forward with a smile: this reduces the risk of serious caries outbreaks, less pain, and less frequent visits to conservative dentists, and lower costs associated with continuous dental treatment, which could not be properly cared for due to the malocclusion.

Causes of orthodontic treatment

Patients report the need for orthodontic treatment at different ages and for very different reasons. It is also necessary to distinguish the causes in the sense in which the orthodontist understands them from the causes as those problems that made the patient decide to consult a specialist. So why is orthodontic treatment performed?

  • Malocclusion is an aesthetic problem for many people. Even if it is so small that it does not carry a serious risk to oral health, it is treated so that the patient feels comfortable.
  • Sometimes, as a result of injuries, accidents, or certain diseases (but also simply with age), the arrangement of the teeth in the oral cavity changes, which may cause discomfort to the patient. It is not always necessary to use prosthetic methods in such cases. Sometimes orthodontic treatment methods are used.
  • Many patients report for an orthodontic examination only when the previously ignored defect begins to significantly limit daily functioning and its complications are visible, for example, in temporomandibular joint pain or the overall negative impact on the condition of the teeth.

Sometimes, only genetic factors are the basis of orthodontic defects. Other changes in turn are acquired by poor habits or injuries, all of which may cause the need for orthodontic treatment.

The most common diseases in the field of orthodontics

The list of diseases and defects that orthodontists deal with is long, although, of course, individual ailments occur with different frequencies. The most frequently diagnosed diseases during an orthodontic consultation include:

  • open bite;
  • crossbite;
  • overbite;
  • deep bite;
  • underbite;
  • crowding;
  • separation of deciduous and permanent teeth.

Some diseases are more often diagnosed in children and others in adults. The level of changes may change over time, which only proves that dental check-ups make sense for many reasons.

Types of orthodontic treatments

Teeth grinding

If the patient’s teeth are in good condition and the malocclusions are not very extensive, orthodontic treatment can be reduced to grinding the surface of the teeth. In practice, this is rarely limited to such a basic procedure, while the grinding itself can also be used as part of a more extensive orthodontic treatment in combination with other methods.

Muscle exercises

Exercises are rarely used as an independent method of treatment, but they are worth mentioning in the context of another issue, namely re-education regarding hygiene, chewing, or speech. Often at this stage, it is also necessary to perform specific exercises that help to create correct movement patterns, which will allow us to avoid the underlying malocclusion habits.

Teeth treatment with braces

This is probably the most recognizable method of orthodontics, used to correct relatively large malocclusions. It is necessary to adapt the type of apparatus worn by the patient to specific defects. Most often the retainer needs to be worn after removing the fixed braces. It is a method of mechanically forcing a change in the position of teeth, used much more often than spatulas or vestibular plaque.

Straightening teeth with overlays

Nowadays, some defects can be treated by using sets of dental straighteners instead of classic retention and permanent braces. The principle of operation is more or less the same, the treatment process is slightly different, but the method itself is intended to be less troublesome for the patient.

Dental resections are sometimes used as auxiliary methods in orthodontics. It is also impossible to obtain the correct positioning of the teeth without preliminary preparation of the patient, i.e. conservative treatment and hygienization. What orthodontic treatment looks like in individual cases and what methods should be used depends on the patient’s age, extent and type of defects, and the expected effect. All the methods mentioned here are just an introduction: there are many variants and possibilities, and they are selected according to an extensive key and often combined.

Effects of orthodontic treatment

The visible effect of orthodontic treatment is, of course, the reduction of malocclusion, i.e. alignment of the teeth, correction of the jaw and mandible, or the width of the dental arches. All this is important in itself, but often, by straightening the crooked teeth, much more is achieved.

  • Improved comfort associated with breathing, chewing, or swallowing food – it is particularly visible in the case of advanced defects.
  • Improved vocal abilities, clearer speech – this effect is sometimes noticeable even after removing relatively small but critical malocclusions.
  • Development of correct functional patterns and related improvement of the patient’s comfort in everyday functioning.
  • Overall improvement in oral health due to better accessibility during daily hygienization or hygienic procedures, such as dental calculus removal.

An abnormal bite is not only a medical problem in itself, but also affects various other aspects of the patient’s functioning, so removable or fixed braces can allow for a very significant increase in comfort.

Teeth before and after orthodontic treatment

In general, orthodontic treatment is considered complete after obtaining a normal bite, but it is worth noting that even partial correction often brings noticeable relief.

In many cases, the effects of orthodontic treatment visible in photographs are only a certain, often small effect. However, the improvement of comfort, vocal abilities, or increasing self-confidence simply cannot be captured in a photo.

Stages of orthodontic treatment

Orthodontic consultation

During the orthodontic consultation, the specialist assesses the extent of the changes, but also the condition of the teeth. They examine whether teeth are suitable for orthodontic treatment directly, or whether conservative dental procedures or hygienization are necessary beforehand. It is also necessary to determine the causes of the defect. It will allow us to choose the right treatment methods for patients of all ages at a later stage. The oral examination itself, as part of the first orthodontic consultation, can be quite time-consuming and require, for example, X-ray documentation.

Both dental arches are always assessed because the purpose of possible treatment will be to correct their mutual position. During the orthodontic appointment, data on the patient’s expectations and preferences is also collected. It is because orthodontic treatment will usually require long-term cooperation and in both children and adults, orthodontic treatment must be carried out in such a way as to minimize the patient’s discomfort.

Orthodontic treatment plan

Knowing the jaw system, the causes of malocclusion, and the purpose of the treatment, the orthodontist can present the patient with an orthodontic treatment plan. It is a detailed description of the methods to be used, a prediction of treatment time, cost estimates, actions to be taken after orthodontic treatment has finished, and so on.

At this stage, the patient is presented with the available options. For example, in the case of many defects, you can choose the type of orthodontic braces or even the schedule of check-ups. At this stage, the orthodontist will also set out all the recommendations about all that need to be followed before, during, and after the orthodontic treatment. They will also hear about what procedures must be performed by a dentist or hygienist before it is safe to carry out the treatment.

Placement of orthodontic braces and follow-up visits

Treatment with fixed and removable braces begins with taking impressions (earlier it may be necessary to prepare gypsum diagnostic models, but the braces are always prepared based on impressions or scans). When the orthodontic braces are ready, they are placed on the patient’s teeth and adjusted so that they do not cause discomfort and can work effectively.

During the follow-up visits, the fit of the orthodontic braces and their technical condition is checked, and adjustments are made to the settings. The condition of the teeth is also assessed. The number and intervals between follow-up visits depend on the degree of the malocclusion, the type of appliance, or the course of previous treatment.

Fixed braces removal

After treatment finishes, the orthodontist removes the braces. How long this process will take and whether it will involve additional discomfort depends, among other things, on the type of locks in braces. From the patient’s point of view, this is already a truly painless visit, although there is always some technical difficulty in removing the locks or subsequently cleaning the teeth from the plaque.

At the visit, during which the braces are removed, not only the condition of the teeth is assessed, but also the gums and mucous membranes. If necessary, certain hygienic procedures can be performed immediately. The patient leaves the office with a beautiful, healthy smile.

Retention and consolidation of effects

Teeth never stay in a fixed position. To keep them in the desired orientation, appropriate retention methods should be used. Retainers are temporarily placed on straightened teeth. It is also necessary to undergo follow-up visits from time to time and maintain appropriate hygiene. All this constitutes a minor inconvenience and no longer generates major costs.

If the retention is carried out correctly, the achieved treatment effect will be permanent. This means that you will not have to wear corrective orthodontic braces or go through another cycle of treatment later. After removing the fixed braces, for some time it is important to carefully observe the places where they were fixed with a special glue. If any disturbing changes occur, for example, discoloration, you should schedule a dental consultation.

What is the risk of resignation or discontinuation of orthodontic treatment?

Untreated malocclusion tends to worsen. Along with it all the negative consequences: headaches, deterioration of oral health, impairment of the biomechanics of chewing, swallowing, or breathing, and deterioration of vocal competence. The position of the teeth and the width of the jaw change throughout life and it should be assumed that giving up wearing braces before achieving the right effect will not allow you to regain full comfort. The time of orthodontic treatment is sometimes long. It can take several years. However, premature removal of orthodontic braces means that the achieved effects do not consolidate and tooth relations return to the state before the start of treatment.

In the long run, untreated defects in the position of teeth may result in pain and degeneration in the temporomandibular joints, toothache, uneven abrasion, or even faster development of caries, accumulating tartar, and difficulties in cleaning teeth.

Are there complications after orthodontic treatment?

Every medical procedure carries a specific risk. Orthodontic treatment is no exception. However, if it is well-prepared and the patient reports for a follow-up visit at a fixed time, the risk will mainly come down to the possibility of plaque accumulation in the vicinity of the brackets. Once the brackets of some types have been removed, the teeth may take some time to fully regenerate. However, there is no risk of extreme complications either in the case of fixed or removable braces. In short, the risk of not starting or stopping treatment is certainly higher than orthodontic treatment with removable or fixed braces.

The risk of complications will increase if the patient does not follow the recommendations regarding eating soft foods or appropriate oral hygiene. The key is to follow an established orthodontic treatment plan.

Cost of orthodontic treatment

There are many factors affecting the price of orthodontic treatment. The most serious is the type and size of the malocclusion because it also affects the need for preparatory procedures and the longer use of braces. Orthodontic treatment will not be cheap, but its effects can be maintained for the rest of your life, so you will not have to incur the cost of treating problems caused by untreated malocclusions.

It is never too late to start treatment, but today is the best time

Malocclusion does not develop dynamically, but the longer you delay the first appointment, the further the end of treatment is. There is no point in waiting. Book an appointment at the HCentrum, find out what the orthodontic treatment of your defect looks like, and what specific type of braces will be the best. Choose a beautiful, healthy smile and greater comfort in life. We will be able to suggest a solution regardless of the patient’s age and the recognized malocclusion.