Teeth straightening is one of the most popular cosmetic dental treatments available. It corrects crooked teeth, overcrowded teeth, and other misalignments by applying external pressure over time.
It is a common treatment for children and teenagers, but more and more adults are seeking this kind of orthodontic treatment. There are several options for straightening teeth, including clear braces and aligners.
Braces are a common treatment for crooked teeth. They help correct misalignments by applying a steady, gentle pressure over time. The result is a straighter smile and better dental health.
Traditional metal braces consist of a series of brackets that are bonded to the front of each tooth. An arch wire connects the brackets and helps guide the movement of the teeth. Newer types of braces include heat-activated arch wires that use the internal temperature of your mouth and body to make the process faster and more comfortable. Clear and invisible braces such as Invisalign use a similar treatment method to shift the teeth into alignment, but without the need for metal or elastic bands.
Crooked teeth can cause problems chewing and speaking. This often makes it difficult to maintain good oral hygiene, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Braces can also improve your facial appearance by lifting and tightening the skin around the mouth.
Teeth that are misaligned can also create a lisp or whistle when you speak. Braces can help shift crooked teeth and close gaps between them, helping you pronounce your words more clearly.
With clear aligners, misaligned teeth can be straightened discreetly and more easily. It is possible for people of any age to straighten their smile with this method, although it is best to do so while the mouth is still growing.
The procedure involves the orthodontist or dentist (or, in home-based systems, the patient themselves) taking a mold of the mouth and digitally scanning it. The computerized model suggests stages between the current and desired tooth positions, and aligners are created for each stage. The aligners are worn for about 22 hours a day, only being removed when eating or cleaning. Each tray moves the teeth a few millimeters, and it typically takes 6-12 months to achieve the final results. Each aligner has a different shape and applies pressure to the teeth differently.
The aligners are made from BPA-free plastic, heated and vacuum-pressed onto a 3D-printed model of the next tooth position. This means each aligner has a unique shape and exerts a constant, light amount of pressure on the teeth to move them to match it. Some people experience mild discomfort in the beginning or when changing to a new aligner, but this will subside as the teeth adjust. This type of teeth straightening also has a shorter treatment time than braces and is less expensive than other orthodontic options.
Mouthguards are coverings worn over the teeth to prevent damage from grinding and clenching of the teeth or during sports. A mouthguard protects the soft tissues of the mouth as well, preventing injuries such as gum lacerations and cracked or broken teeth. Despite not being able to correct misalignment, mouthguards are an effective tool in protecting the teeth from further injury.
There are three main types of mouthguards: stock, boil and bite and custom-fitted. Stock mouthguards come preformed and are readily available in most department or sporting goods stores. These mouthguards can be bulky and difficult to fit in the mouth, which makes speaking and breathing more challenging. They also provide the least amount of protection. Dentists do not recommend their use.
Boil and bite mouthguards can be found at most sporting goods and drugstores and provide a slightly better fit than stock mouthguards. These mouthguards must be placed in hot water to become soft, then inserted into the mouth and allowed to mould around the teeth.
Custom mouthguards molded by a dentist are the most expensive type of mouthguard, but they offer the best fit and comfort. These guards are often used at night to protect the teeth from bruxism, and they can also help alleviate mild sleep apnea. While they do not straighten the teeth, some splints that are used to treat TMJ and shift malocclusion are shaped like mouthguards.
When most people think of teeth straightening, they are often thinking about solutions like braces or aligners that fix multiple or even all of their crooked teeth. While these methods can be effective, they may not work for those with just a single crooked tooth. The good news is that a single misalignment can often be corrected more quickly than one might expect with simple treatments such as composite bonding or lingual braces.
More severe cases of crooked teeth might require more significant and invasive treatment such as jaw surgery or orthodontics. In this case, the problem isn’t in the teeth but rather in the jaws themselves and in their positioning. This surgical solution can involve adding or removing bone, reshaping the jaws by moving them forward or backward, and using plates, screws, wires and rubber bands to hold the new position until the bones have healed.
This type of oral surgery is known as orthognathic surgery and can correct a wide variety of facial and jaw problems. This includes issues that can cause lisps, slurred speech and difficulty chewing. It can also improve the facial balance and aesthetics of a person’s face. Depending on the severity of the issue, this procedure might be covered by insurance. Usually, it’s performed inside the mouth so no scarring is visible on the chin or jaw.