Why do we straighten teeth, and how do we do it?
Common issues which can be corrected or improved with orthodontic treatment
Overjet describes what happens when the top front teeth point outwards, or protrude, over the bottom teeth towards the lip. Protruded upper teeth are often due to having a lower jaw that’s underdeveloped in proportion to the upper jaw.
Crowding is the lack of space for all the teeth to fit normally within the jaws. The teeth may be rotated or displaced. Crowding occurs when there is disharmony in the tooth to jaw size relationship, or when the teeth are larger than the available space.
This is where back teeth bite together but the front teeth don't, leaving a space the between top and bottom teeth. It creates difficulty with biting, chewing and speech and is often caused by abnormal jaw growth which could result in abnormal tongue habits.
Underbites occur when the lower jaw outgrows the upper jaw. When biting together, upper front teeth sit in behind lower teeth. This is more common in males than females, and can sometimes not occur until late teenage years.
A mismatch between the size of the jaw bones and the size of the teeth can cause either extra space between teeth. Whilst spacing actually makes teeth easier to clean, it can also cause more problems with food stuck between teeth.
This is where the upper jaw bites down too far over the lower jaw and may bite into the lower gum. Lower teeth can bite up into the gum behind the upper teeth. This type of bite is also a risk factor for increased tooth wear and gum damage.
'Buck teeth' or 'rabbit teeth' occurs when the upper jaw grows too much and sticks out, or the lower jaw does not grow enough. Protruded teeth can be cute but some are unattractive and others may be prone to accidental damage.
Missing or removed teeth can result in unattractive and nonfunctional spaces. Opposing and adjacent teeth can also drift into the space to create further problems.
Narrow arches often need to be widened to improve tooth function, correct cross bites and create space for all the teeth in the arch. When corrected, you get the vision of a broader smile which is much more attractive.
Ectopic teeth are teeth which develop in the wrong position, often in the roof of the mouth or blocked out of the arch towards the cheek. Without orthodontics, these teeth are almost always left in place and nonfunctional.
Mixed dentition is when both baby (deciduous) teeth and adult (permanent) teeth are in the mouth at the same time. We expect children to lose all baby teeth by the age of 12, and if not, sometimes orthodontic treatment is necessary.
This can mean teeth are pushed into a crooked position and sometimes the supporting bone is affected. Once sucking ceases, some degree of natural improvement often occurs.
Upper teeth should fit outside lower teeth like a lid on a box. If the upper jaw is too narrow, the lower jaw usually swings to one side to allow the back teeth to mesh.
Teeth may not erupt, or become impacted if they don't have sufficient space to erupt, or erupt in an unusual direction. Once the teeth are uncovered, orthodontics can be used to bring them into the arch.