WHEN it comes to orthodontic treatment, the basic question to be addressed first is whether everyone needs it.
The answer is no, although there are individuals with genuine problems who need to be treated.
Research findings in some countries showed the treatment has become trendy among adolescents and adults as they perceive they need to wear braces to belong in a group or social class.
Before any treatment can be done, the potential patient needs to sit on a dental chair and be examined by a registered dentist in a legal clinic. Professionally and ethically, qualified dentists are trained not to give their opinions on any treatment needed including orthodontics, unless the patient has been examined on a dental chair.
In a thorough oral examination, special x-rays are usually taken as a baseline to study the growth of the jaw and tooth eruption pattern or position. All general dental practitioners know they must refer to an orthodontist if the misalignment of the dentition is severe and requires specialist attention.
By the time children are 12, it is normal for them to have their permanents (28 teeth) in the mouth, except for the four wisdom teeth that only will erupt (if they ever will) when they are 17 or older. Your jawbone will also stop growing around that age. So, girls and boys, parents, too, do not rush. Let nature take its course. Orthodontic treatment, if needed, on average starts as early as age 14 when the teeth and jaw growth are in more stable formation. Having said so, there is no harm in seeing the dentist early to get the best advice possible not only for orthodontic treatment, but for other oral conditions or diseases, as well.
Treatment options are also dependent on whether the case is diagnosed under aesthetics or functional impairment. There are several options for treating aesthetic problems, without having to wear wires “gated” to your teeth surfaces. Qualified professionals like orthodontists also need to do some specific measurements with their little special rulers to see how severe your misalignment is. They then interpret their measurements to next quantify the severity of the case. More often than not, a special x-ray is taken before and after treatment completion to identify any underlying and structural problems with the patient’s jaw and teeth. Special impressions of your teeth-jaw position will also be taken which is then cast using special dental plaster.
Treatment options are weighed against risks. This is especially true if a severe functional impairment requires surgical procedures. In this instance, orthodontists need to also work with oral and maxillofacial surgeons and possibly with clinical prevention specialists, too, who may need to provide prevention care throughout the treatment journey. Treatment is not a simple step. Make sure your dentist takes time to explain and discuss the severity of your condition and treatment options. As orthodontic treatment requires time, it is best to have discussions in a transparent manner.Costs are also based on the severity of the condition and type of appliance needed, including with or without surgical procedures. Agreed, cost can be seen to be considerable to the patient. What patients should know is, depending on the severity of the case, the cost of treatment is often a package that includes all the procedures earlier mentioned and not just for the braces with its wires alone. It will cost more if surgery is needed. Even then, the duration is dependent on how well patients comply with the scheduled visits and the oral hygiene regiments that need to be followed.
To decide what is the best option if you are seriously looking for orthodontic treatment, go and have an oral check at your nearest neighbourhood dentist or orthodontist. Avoid any bogus offers – certainly one that does not require you to have an oral examination on a dental chair!
PROF DR RAHIMAH ABD KADIR
Founding Dean and Senior Consultant-Specialist in Clinical Prevention and Dental Public Health
Lincoln University College Malaysia