Orthodontic Goals Then and Now
Orthodontics became the first specialty of dentistry in 1900s. Since then, orthodontic treatment has dramatically changed. Modern advances with materials, manufacturing and computers now allow orthodontists to deliver the gorgeous smiles our patients desire in less time with less discomfort. But there is more!
Orthodontic goals have changed over the years, Orthodontists now focus on “functional occlusions” and “dentofacial harmony.” These are dental terms that translate into creating gorgeous smiles that function optimally in balance with the skeletal system, the neuro-muscular system and the other soft tissues while in esthetic “harmony” with the face. Essentially, optimal function and optimal esthetics of the teeth and face.
To gain optimal function and esthetics, orthodontists often begin the treatment of the dentofacial problems at very young ages. One of the primary goals of so called “early treatment” (when baby teeth are still present) is to correct the skeletal abnormalities of growing patients. As patients mature and the baby teeth are shed, orthodontists focus on the dental abnormalities. The early stage of treatment (skeletal corrections) is typically termed Phase I and occurs from ages 6-11 years old. The later stage of care (dental corrections) is termed Phase II treatment and occurs from ages 11-14 years old. There are only two phases of early orthodontic treatment with growing patients. Many Phase I patients also require Phase II care to achieve optimal dental function and esthetics.
Your orthodontist will consider many factors when they develop treatment plans to achieve a functional occlusion with dentofacial harmony. One orthodontic treatment plan that has always been a topic of discussion and debate is the extraction of permanent teeth Years ago, extraction treatment plans were common. Teeth were removed to allow space to de-crowd crooked teeth.
Advances in orthodontic techniques now allow many cases to be treated non-extraction (without the removal of teeth) but do result in expansion of the dental arches (jaw bones) and teeth and therefore larger, fuller smiles. For some faces, this is ideal and desirable. For others, larger, fuller smiles do not result in dentofacial harmony.
The treatment plan your orthodontist develops with you must consider the facial changes that occur with care. For some patients, extraction treatment may be the best choice to achieve dentofacial harmony. We must keep in mind that the extraction of teeth for orthodontics is one possible plan, not a treatment goal.
Ask your orthodontist about their goals when developing your orthodontic treatment plan and remember that orthodontists just dont straighten teeth, they change faces. Call your local orthodontist to schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns.