Orthodontics: Creating a Well Aligned Smile

Orthodontics is a dental specialty that is the study and treatment of improper bites possibly resulting from tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships or both. Improperly aligned teeth and jaws are called a malocclusion and often lead to a host of painful dental disorders. The type of dentist that specializes in orthodontics is orthodontists. Orthodontists can protect your bite, maximize your teeth’s effectiveness in performing their functions and create a well aligned smile. Orthodontists are able to do this through numerous methods. In addition, they are able to guide jaw growth, lower risk of trauma to protruded front teeth, correct harmful oral habits, improve the way lips meet, and improve appearance resulting in improved self-esteem. Orthodontic treatment can rejuvenate the facial appearance through reshaping the jaw, neck and lips. These different enhancements place orthodontic treatment in the same category as cosmetic surgery.

With all of the technological advancements, there has been a growing trend for adults to receive orthodontic treatment. According to the American Dental Association, nearly 30% of orthodontic patients in the US are adults. There is no longer the preconceived notion that orthodontic treatment is strictly for kids who need to fit braces for their teeth. More adults are becoming increasingly fashion conscious and paying more attention to their appearance. Adults are requesting orthodontic treatment to create the “well-aligned smile”. An improved smile creates improved self-confidence for people.

A referral will be made by the dentist if orthodontic treatment is requested. During the orthodontic visit, an evaluation is made to identify an individualized treatment plan. Typically, before the treatment plan is developed the orthodontist will need to obtain the following:

  • Oral, facial and function evaluation
  • Intraoral and facial photographs
  • Panoramic and cephalometric x-rays
  • Impressions for models of the teeth and bite

The results from the different assessment methods and tests performed will result in a treatment plan developed by the orthodontist. The orthodontist will discuss all of the orthodontic treatment alternatives that will be best suited for the individual.

What You Should Know About Digital X-rays

Dental x-rays provide dentists the opportunity to identify any potential problems in the mouth. The x-ray illustrates images inside of the mouth that enhance the dentist ability to diagnose dental conditions for the patient. In recent years, digital x-rays are increasingly being used in dental offices. Digital x-rays are newer technologies that have a variety of advantages in comparison to traditional dental x-rays. Digital x-rays are a type of x-ray where digital sensors are used instead of traditional film. Digital x-rays work by the dentist placing electronic sensors in the patient’s mouth. The sensors are connected to a computer by a small wire. The x-ray beam is sent through the teeth and into the sensor. The image appears on the computer screen. Images are either saved on the computer or printed out.

There are numerous advantages to using digital x-rays for the dentist and patient.

Advantages for the Dentist

  • Dentists no longer have to deal with film. Digital x-rays are a filmless image captured on x-ray. This is a time savings for the dentist since there will not be any film processing that needs to occur.
  • There is no darkroom. Since there will not be any film processing, there is no need to have a dark room.
  • There are no chemicals. This saves the dentist more time by not having to deal with chemical processing.
  • Images are saved on the computer. Images electronically saved eliminate the need for identifying storage space for x-rays. Sometimes, stored paper x-rays may get lost or misfiled.
  • Images are able to be viewed immediately. The dentist is not waiting for the development of film, which is often an inconvenience for the dentist.
  • Images can be electronically sent to specialist offices.
  • Images can be manipulated. Digital images can be enlarged and manipulated on the computer screen. This provides the dentist more detail on the inside of a patient’s mouth.

Advantages for the Patient

  • Patient education. Patients are able to understand better what’s going on in their mouth when reviewing the digital x-ray on the computer. The dentist can show the patient his teeth on the computer and enlarge it. Digital x-rays appear to be more user friendly for the patient in comparison to the regular dental x-rays.
  • Less radiation exposure. Per some makers of equipment, there is as much as a 70-80% reduction in radiology exposure.

How Your Dentist Can Help You with Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder which causes respiration to stop when a person is sleeping. This is a very common disorder affecting more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. A person can stop breathing from 10 seconds up to a few minutes. The pauses in breathing can take place up to 30 times in one hour. Sleep apnea can cause life-threatening health problems related to oxygen deprivation if it isn’t addressed. Some of the health problems resulting from oxygen deprivation include heart disease, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, and learning/memory problems.

Warning signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Frequent silences during sleep due to breaks in breathing
  • Choking or gasping during sleep
  • Loud snoring
  • Sudden awakenings to restart breathing
  • Daytime sleepiness

In an effort to reduce sleep apnea, some medical companies have introduced some sleep apnea dental appliances. Two common oral devices are the Mandibular Repositioning Device and the Tongue Retaining Device. These devices work by opening your airway by bringing your lower jaw or your tongue forward during sleep. It appears the dental appliances have been successful for mild to moderate sleep apnea. Fewer apneas occur when using these dental devices.

If a patient chooses to use a dental appliance, dentists are great choices to work on designing the oral appliance for a person’s mouth. A dentist will design and fabricate a mold of the teeth and jaws. It is important to get fitted by a dentist specializing in sleep apnea and work with the dentist to identify any dental problems with using the dental appliance.

Why Use a Dentist to help with Sleep Apnea?

While sleep apnea occurs within the airways, the symptoms are produced through the mouth. Since dentists are the mouth experts, it seems very appropriate to use a dentist, particularly one who has significant knowledge on sleep apnea. Another great benefit of choosing dental sleep apnea treatment is that the dentist may be able to pick out specific problems within your mouth that may be exacerbating your sleep apnea. If a person grinds his teeth during sleep, the dentist will be able to repair any damage that may have been caused.

Dental treatments for sleep apnea offer a huge array of benefits to a person’s health, appearance and condition. Techniques such as oral appliance therapy will not cure sleep apnea, but it can reduce the episodes that occur resulting from sleep apnea.