What is orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialist branch of dentistry concerned with the development and management of irregularities and abnormalities of the teeth, jaws and face. The technical term for these problems is "malocclusion" which means "bad bite".
What causes orthodontic problems (malocclusions)?
Most malocclusions are inherited, but some are acquired. Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth, and a wide variety of other irregularities of the jaws, teeth and face.
Acquired malocclusions can be caused by trauma, (accidents), thumb, finger or dummy sucking, dental disease or premature loss of primary (baby) or permanent teeth.
Both inherited and acquired malocclusions affect both the alignment of teeth and also facial development and appearance.
Why see a specialist orthodontist?
On top of a general dentistry degree, Orthodontists undergo a rigorous 3 year Masters degree that involves thorough training in all aspects of orthodontic treatment - involving treatment planning, dealing with complex cases that involve multidisciplinary treatment with other specialists, facial deformities and cleft palate management, combined orthodontics and facial surgery, and of course all aspects of orthodontic treatment.
An orthodontist is registered with The Dental Council of New Zealand as a dental specialist. Orthodontists have their own organisation, the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO) who monitors the very high standards required for accreditation as an orthodontist in New Zealand. The NZAO also oversee the compulsory requirement for ongoing education through conferences and courses.
Mark Johnson and his staff attend conferences and courses in New Zealand and overseas regularly, so you can be sure that you are receiving the most up to date treatment.
Do I need a referral to attend an orthodontist?
School Dental Therapists and Dentists are trained to refer cases appropriately to an orthodontist, and can give guidance or recommendations. However, you can ring to ask questions or make an appointment without a referral.
Can adults get orthodontic treatment?
Orthodontic treatment is possible as an adult, and more adults are getting treatment. As long as the supporting gums are healthy the teeth can be moved with little risk of damage at any age. Certain types of problems can not be corrected in the absence of childhood growth.
Do teeth always need to be extracted for orthodontic treatment?
Definitely not!!! A lot of people are surprised at how we treat many of our complex cases without taking teeth out. A recent practice survey showed that we start between 65 and 70% of cases without the extraction of teeth. A decision about the type of treatment given is made in consultation with the patient after a rigorous examination of records and cost/ risk/ benefit analysis.
The reason teeth need to be extracted are for excessive protrusion, so the teeth can be brought back in the face, or for excessive crowding, where there is not enough room for the teeth to fit in. Generally, most people end up with the same biting surface or more when teeth are extracted and there is often room for the wisdom teeth to erupt later in life, saving costly and painful extractions.
Some alternative practitioners claim that all treatment can be performed without the extraction of teeth or make excessive claims about the ability to "grow jaws", or make unsupported claims about extractions "caving in" faces. In misdiagnosed cases, these often end up with unsightly or unstable results.
Do extractions harm the shape of my face?
There have been media reports in the past claiming that extractions can cause damage to the appearance of faces. This is unsupported by years of research. In fact, in appropriate extraction cases (such as buck teeth), the patients are perceived as being far more attractive at the end of treatment.
We always take the patients profile into consideration when planning treatment. Inappropriate extractions may cause problems, but as specialists we are trained to evaluate and treat cases to gain the best possible result. We have some very good scientific review articles on the subject if you wish to see them.
Is it better to start treatment early?
In many cases problems are best sorted out when all the adult teeth are through (age 10-14). However, we like to see children when they are around 7-9 years old. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. Certain problems are best sorted out at this stage. For example; very prominent teeth can lead to teasing at school and the teeth are more likely to be damaged during sport and play. We can use an appliance at this young age to harness any available growth to improve the facial appearance.
2. Other problems that are best treated early include children who have some of the upper teeth trapped inside the lower teeth (at the back or front of the mouth), and those with very mild irregularities of the teeth. Intervention at an early age will almost certainly make any later treatment easier and more successful. In a small proportion of cases, it may eliminate the need for future treatment entirely.
3. At 8 years of age, it is possible to predict, with a reasonable degree of precision, the future orthodontic needs of an individual. This does give time to prepare financially for treatment.
If braces are necessary is a financial plan available?
The simple answer is yes. In general terms, an initial deposit is required the day the braces are placed. The balance of the account is then spread over the following 18 months. There is also a discount given to siblings.