By Vishant Nath DMD
Last month’s column gave a brief introduction to orthodontic treatment. Phase I orthodontic treatment was discussed. This article will continue with the topic of orthodontics by providing an overview of the next phases of orthodontic treatment, Phase II orthodontics and retention.
When the topic of orthodontics comes to mind, most people think of Phase II orthodontics, or braces. The goal of Phase II orthodontics is to bring all of the teeth into ideal alignment. Phase II orthodontics usually begins when patients are 11 or 12 years old and all of the permanent teeth have erupted and are fully in place. Treatment at this age can sometimes be accomplished using a removable appliance, but most often, traditional metal bands and brackets are needed to complete the treatment.
Braces straighten teeth by performing two important tasks: staying in place for an extended period of time and exerting steady pressure. The orthodontist can also adjust them periodically in order to move teeth in place over time. Brackets and bands are affixed to the surface of the teeth to provide a place for the wires to attach. During orthodontic treatment, it’s important to visit the orthodontist often. During these visits the orthodontist can make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the treatment is progressing favorably. The orthodontist may attach wires, springs, or rubber bands to the braces in order to create more tension and pressure on the teeth.
During orthodontic treatment, oral hygiene becomes even more important. As you can imagine, braces, wires and rubber bands are magnets for food and plaque. Poor oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment can lead to permanent staining of the teeth. Your dentist and orthodontist will recommend brushing after meals with fluoride toothpaste and making it a habit to remove any food particles that get stuck in braces. It’s also important not to skip your six-month check-ups with your pediatric or general dentist during this time.
Phase II orthodontic treatment will usually last from 12 to 24 months. After treatment is complete and braces are removed, the final phase of orthodontic treatment, retention, is entered. The goal of retention is, of course, to maintain all that has been accomplished in the previous phases of orthodontic treatment. Typically, removable or permanent retainers are used in the retention phase of treatment.
Braces can solve many issues with teeth. They can make you look and feel your best! They may not be enjoyable during treatment, but the payoff in the end is undeniable. Never underestimate the importance of having healthy, strong, straight teeth!