ST. LOUIS--A typical orthodontic patient looks forward to having a beautiful smile at the end of treatment. But orthodontics also can have a significant impact on long-term good health.
Dr. Frederick G. Preis of Bel Air, Md., president of the American Association of Orthodontists, says that proper alignment of teeth, jaws and associated structures early on may help prevent a variety of problems later in life.
�As individuals mature, untreated orthodontic problems can continue to worsen,� says Dr. Preis. �A malocclusion (bad bite) may involve crowding of teeth, improper spacing, or upper and lower teeth that don�t fit together correctly. Crowded teeth can be very difficult to keep clean, and may result in tooth decay, gum disease, and be a disadvantage socially.
�And over time,� adds Dr. Preis, �abnormal wearing of tooth surfaces and tooth trauma are possible with a bad bite. In some cases, an improper bite may lead to damage of bone and gum tissue that support the teeth.�
Because excellent dental hygiene is a must for orthodontic patients, orthodontists provide extensive education of patients in proper brushing and flossing techniques, with follow-up and reinforcement at each orthodontic appointment. Good eating habits also are encouraged. Especially for young orthodontic patients, this process may set the stage for lifelong, good dental hygiene and eating habits, and make a positive difference in future health.
Orthodontic treatment can benefit adults as well as children and teenagers. People with healthy teeth, bone, and gums respond well to orthodontic treatment at almost any age. Along with patients� general dentists, orthodontists evaluate a variety of factors in determining whether adults should enter orthodontic treatment.
�It�s never too late to improve the quality of one�s life,� according to Dr. Preis.
Five million people in the United States and Canada are currently in orthodontic treatment, according to the AAO. One in five is over age 18.
To find an orthodontist in your area, ask your family dentist for a referral, or contact the American Association of Orthodontists at (800) STRAIGHT. You may also use the �orthodontist locator� service on the AAO�s Web site, www.braces.org.