Dental braces (also known as orthodontic braces) are a device used in orthodontics to correct alignment of teeth and their position with regard to bite. Braces are often used to correct malocclusions such as underbites, overbites, cross bites and open bites, or crooked teeth and various other flaws of teeth and jaws, whether cosmetic or structural. Orthodontic braces are often used in conjunction with other orthodontic appliances to widen the palate or jaws, create spaces between teeth, or otherwise shape the teeth and jaws. Most orthodontic patients are children or teenagers, however, recently, more adults have been seeking orthodontic treatment.
- 1 History
- 2 How braces work
- 3 Procedure
- 4 Post-treatment
- 5 Complications and risks
- 6 Treatment time and cost
- 7 Types of braces
- 8 Braces in popular culture
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
In the mid-17th century the French physician Pierre Fauchard (credited as the father of modern dentistry) witnessed and treated several dental deformities very common among citizens in Paris during the pre-revolutionary France. Historians believe that two different men deserve the title of being called "the Father of Orthodontics." One man was Norman W. Kingsley, a dentist, writer, artist, and sculptor, who wrote his "Treatise on Oral Deformities" in 1880. Kingsley's writings influenced dental science greatly. Also deserving credit is dentist J. N. Farrar, who wrote two volumes entitled "A treatise on the Irregularities of the teeth and their corrections". Farrar was very good at designing brace appliances, and he was the first to suggest the use of mild force at timed intervals to move teeth.
How braces work
Teeth move through the use of force. The force applied by the archwire pushes the tooth in a particular direction and a stress is created within the periodontal ligament. The modification of the periodontal blood supply determines a biological response which leads to bone remodelling, where bone is created on one side by osteoblast cells and resorbed on the other side by osteoclasts.
Two different kinds of bone resorption are possible. Direct resorption, starting from the lining cells of the alveolar bone, and indirect or retrograde resorption, where osteoclasts start their activity in the neighbour bone marrow. Indirect resorption takes place when the periodontal ligament has become acellular (necrosis or hyalinization), for an excessive amount and duration of compressive stress. In this case the quantity of bone resorbed is larger than the quantity of newly formed bone (negative balance). Bone resorption only occurs in the compressed periodontal ligament. Another important phenomenon associated with tooth movement is bone deposition. Bone deposition occurs in the distracted periodontal ligament. Without bone deposition, the tooth will loosen and voids will occur distal to the direction of tooth movement.
A tooth will usually move about a millimeter per month during orthodontic movement, but there is high individual variability. Orthodontic mechanics can vary in efficiency, thus explaining a wide range of response to orthodontic treatment.
Orthodontic services may be provided by any licensed dentist competent in orthodontic practice. In North America most orthodontic treatment is done by orthodontists, dentists specializing in diagnosis and treatment of malocclusions—malalignments of the teeth, jaws, or both. A dentist must complete 2–3 years of additional post-doctoral training to earn a specialty certificate in orthodontics.
The first step is to determine if braces are suitable for the patient. The doctor consults with the patient and inspects the teeth visually. If braces are appropriate, a records appointment is setup where X-rays, molds, and impressions are made. These records are analyzed to determine the problems and proper course of action. Typical treatment times vary from six months to six years depending on the complexity and types of problems. Orthognathic surgery may be required in extreme cases.
Teeth to be braced will have an etchant applied to help the cement bond to the surface of the tooth. A bracket will be applied with dental cement, and then cured with light until hardened. This process usually takes a few seconds per tooth. If required, orthodontic spacers may be inserted between the molars to make room for molar bands to be placed at a later date. Molar bands are required to ensure brackets will stick. Bands are also utilized when dental fillings or other dental work make securing a bracket to a tooth unfeasible.
Dental braces, with a transparent powerchain, removed after completion of treatment
An archwire will be threaded between the brackets and affixed with elastic or metal ligatures. Archwires in the past had to be bent, shaped, and tightened frequently to achieve the desired results. Modern orthodontics makes frequent use of nickel-titanium archwires and temperature-sensitive materials. When cold, the archwire is limp and flexible, easily threaded between brackets of any configuration. Once heated to body temperature, the archwire will stiffen and seek to retain its shape, creating constant light force on the teeth.
Elastics are used to close open bites, shift the midline, or create a stronger force to pull teeth or jaws in the desired direction. Brackets with hooks can be placed, or hooks can be created and affixed to the archwire to affix the elastic to. The placement and configuration of the elastics will depend on the course of treatment and the individual patient. Elastics are made in different diameters, sizes, and strengths.
In many cases there is insufficient space in the mouth for all the teeth to fit properly. There are two main procedures to make room in these cases. One is extraction: teeth are removed to create more space. The second is expansion: the palate or arch is made larger by using an expander. Expanders can be used with both children and adults. Since the bones of adults are already fused, expanding the palate is not possible without surgery to unfuse them. An expander can be used on an adult without surgery, but to expand the dental arch, and not the palate.
For some patients, Invisalign might be a viable alternative to braces. The Invisalign system uses a series of clear plastic trays to move teeth into their position over a length of time. This system is not recommended for more difficult cases, or for people whose last molars have yet to erupt. However, one of the disadvantages of Invisalign is that it usually requires a longer treatment time, especially because the appliance is removable, whereas conventional braces are always working because they are fixed to the patient's teeth. This usually allows for a faster treatment because the patient is not tempted to remove the appliance, as they may be with Invisalign.
Patients may need orthodontic surgery, such as a fiberotomy, to prepare their teeth for retainer use.
Some patients find braces can be discomforting in the mouth, which can affect the post-treatment of patients with braces.
Retainers are required to be worn once treatment with braces is complete. The orthodontist will recommend a retainer based on the patient's needs. If a patient does not wear the retainer as recommended, the teeth might move towards their original position (relapse).
A Hawley retainer is made of metal hooks that surround the teeth and are enclosed by an acrylic plate shaped to fit the patient's palate. An Essix retainer is similar to Invisalign trays. It is a clear plastic tray form-fitted to the teeth and stays in place by suction. A bonded retainer is a wire permanently bonded to the lingual side of the teeth (usually the lower teeth only).
If a person's teeth are not ready for a proper retainer, the orthodontist may prescribe the use of a pre-finisher. This rubber appliance similar to a mouthguard fixes gaps between the teeth, small spaces between the upper and lower jaw, and other minor problems that could worsen. These problems are small matters that dental braces cannot fix.
The pre-finisher is molded to the patient's teeth by use of severe pressure to the appliance by the person's jaw. The pre-finisher is then worn for the prescribed time, with the user applying force to the pre-finisher in their mouth for ten to fifteen seconds at a time. The goal is increasing the "exercise" time, time spent applying force to the appliance. Like the retainer, the pre-finisher is not a permanent addition to one's mouth, and can be moved in and out of the mouth.
Complications and risks
Plaque forms easily when food is retained in and around braces. It is important to maintain proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing thoroughly when wearing braces to prevent tooth decay, decalcification, or unpleasant color changes to the teeth.
There is a small chance of allergic reaction to the latex rubber in elastics or to the metal used in braces. Latex-free elastics and alternative metals can be used instead. It is important for those who believe that they are allergic to their braces to notify the orthodontist immediately.
Mouth sores may be triggered by irritation from components of the braces. Many products can increase comfort, including oral rinses, dental wax or dental silicone, and products to help heal sores.
Braces can also be damaged if proper care is not taken. It is important to wear a mouthguard to prevent breakage when playing sports. Chewing gum and certain sticky or hard foods, such as raw carrots, large hard pretzels, and toffee should be avoided because they can damage braces. Frequent damage to braces can prolong treatment.
In the course of treatment orthodontic brackets may pop off due to the forces involved, or due to cement weakening over time. The orthodontist should be contacted immediately for advice if this occurs. In most cases the bracket is replaced.
When teeth move, the end of the arch wire may become displaced, causing it to poke the back of the patient's cheek. Dental wax can be applied to cushion the protruding wire. The orthodontist must be called immediately to have it clipped, or a painful mouth ulcer may form. If the wire is causing severe pain, it may be necessary to carefully bend the edge of the wire in with a spoon or other piece of equipment (i.e. tweezers) until the wire can be clipped by an orthodontist.
Patients with periodontal disease usually must obtain periodontal treatment before getting braces. A deep cleaning is performed, and further treatment may be required before beginning orthodontic treatment. Bone loss due to periodontal disease may lead to tooth loss during treatment.
The dental displacement obtained with the orthodontic appliance determines in most cases some degree of root resorption. Only in a few cases is this side effect large enough to be considered real clinical damage to the tooth. 
Pain is common after adjustment and may cause difficulty eating for a time, often several days. During this period, eating soft foods can help avoid additional pressure on teeth.
The metallic look may not be desirable to some people, although transparent varieties are available. However, transparent braces usually don't work as well as metallic ones.
Treatment time and cost
Typical treatment time is from six months to six years, depending on the severity of the case, location, age, etc., although two years is average. Treatment can be accelerated using novel planning and positioning techniques.
Typical cost of braces is about $5,000 in the US, but can be much lower in other countries. In CIS countries for example, the cost is $200 to $500 per jaw.
In some European countries, orthodontic treatment is available without charge to patients under 16 (or for treatment to start at 16, such as Ireland), as benefits for orthodontic treatment is provided under government-run health care systems.
Sometimes braces are required more than once if the retainer fails to keep teeth in place.
Types of braces
Modern orthodontists can offer many types and varieties of braces:
- Traditional braces are stainless steel, sometimes in combination with nickel titanium, and are the most widely used. Many stainless steel brackets are offered by various orthodontic supply companies. These include coventional braces that require ties and newer self-tying (or self-ligating) brackets, like Time brackets by American Orthodontics, SmartClip™ Brackets by 3M Unitek, SPEED, or Damon brackets.
- Ceramic braces offer a less visible alternative. They blend in more with the natural color of the tooth and are arguably more visually appealing. Some ceramic brackets are not as strong as metal and may require longer treatment time. Some ceramic brackets are also slightly larger than metal ones and may be more difficult to adapt to. One example is Clarity™ Braces  by 3M Unitek.
- Gold-plated stainless steel braces are for people allergic to nickel (a component of stainless steel), but may be chosen because they blend better with teeth, and some people simply prefer the look of gold over the traditional silver-colored braces.
- Lingual braces are fitted behind the teeth, and are not visible with casual interaction. Lingual braces can be more difficult to adjust to, since they can hinder tongue movement.
- A new concept under development are braces using so-called smart brackets. The smart bracket concept consists of a bracket containing microchip capable of measuring the forces applied to the bracket/tooth interface. The goal of this successfully demonstrated concept  is to significantly reduce the duration of orthodontic therapy and to set the applied forces in non-harmful, optimal ranges.
Braces in popular culture
For many children and teenagers, even those without severe bite problems, braces are simply a part of growing up. There is a growing number of adults (roughly 25% of brace patients are over 21) wearing braces to correct orthodontic issues.
Celebrities who have been spotted wearing functional braces in adulthood include Tom Cruise, Gwen Stefani, Lil Bow Wow, Ashley Judd, Lee Ann Womack, Terrell Davis, Lisa Scott-Lee, Lila McCann, Linda Gray, Cher, Nancy Kissinger (wife of former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger), Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Marquis Daniels, Josh Howard, Kelly Clarkson, Alyssa Milano, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kyo of Dir en grey, Cristiano Ronaldo and University of Colorado head football coach Dan Hawkins. Paula Jones, who gained fame during the late 1990's for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton, wore braces during the months when she was going through other physical and wardrobe changes.
Wearing braces as a fashion statement, rather than from medical necessity, appears to catch on among the young in some parts of the world. In 2006, the media reported that wearing fake braces had become a teen fad in Thailand, and authorities considered punishing sellers of fake braces with six months in prison or a $1,300 fine.  A similar fad has occurred in the Philippines, though it has caught on with everyone of all ages, teenagers and the elderly alike; dental braces are a sign of wealth in the Philippines. This is not dissimilar to obesity being coveted in some places of the Third World, as it is also an indicator of some wealth.
Notable appearances of braces in popular culture include:
- Beavis and Butt-Head One of the main characters, Butt-Head, wears braces.
- The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield" featured the memorable mantra "Dental Plan… Lisa Needs Braces" as Homer considered the fact that losing his work-based dental plan would force him to pay for Lisa's orthodontic work.
- Braceface is a cartoon where the protagonist's braces prevent her from having a normal life.
- Norelle Van Herk, a contestant on America's Next Top Model Cycle 3, came into the competition wearing braces.
- Tootie Ramsey, a character on the long-running U.S. sitcom The Facts of Life, wore braces for six years.
- Ugly Betty, a TV comedy series debuting in 2006 on the ABC-TV network. The title character, Betty Suarez, wears braces in an effort to emphasize her physical unattractiveness. The actress America Ferrera wears fake braces when portraying the show's title character.
- Oxygen (film) The main character in the movie played by Adrien Brody wears braces. A notable line from the movie has an NYPD Captain respond to one of his officers asking how they could find the guy by visiting dental offices in NY by saying "How many 25 year olds do you know who wear braces?".
- "Weird Al" Yankovic pointedly did not wear grills but still wore braces in his song, "White & Nerdy".
- Magnolia (film) Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, played by William H. Macy, yearns for braces during much of the film. Although the braces are unneeded, he hopes wearing them will attract a braces-wearing bartender. Ironically, he realizes his foolishness just after his teeth are disfigured in an accidental fall.
- In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Cheese draws in his breath and exclaims "I have braces", but actually has a piece of tinfoil over his teeth, which he found in the trash.
- ^ Thai authorities to ban fake braces, The Age, 27 January 2006
orthodontic treatment of crowded
teeth; the canine is being pulled down into proper position with highly flexible co-axial wire
After 10 months of fixed orthodontic treatment. Further treatment is necessary to correct the bite.
Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusions (improper bites), which may be a result of tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships, or both. Also does the whole face. The word comes from the Greek words ortho meaning straight and odons meaning tooth.
Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or can deal with the control and modification of facial growth. In the latter case it is better defined as "dentofacial orthopedics". Orthodontic treatment can be carried out for purely aesthetic reasons—improving the general appearance of patients' teeth and face for cosmetic reasons—but treatment is often prescribed for practical reasons, providing the patient with a functionally improved bite (occlusion).
- 1 Treatment
- 2 Diagnosis and treatment planning
- 3 Training
- 3.1 United Kingdom and Europe
- 3.2 United States
- 4 See also
- 5 External links
If the main goal of the treatment is the dental displacement, most commonly a fixed multibracket therapy is used. In this case orthodontic wires are inserted into dental braces, which can be made from stainless steel or a more esthetic ceramic material.
, with a powerchain, removed after completion of treatment.
Also removable appliances, or "plates", headgear, expansion appliances, and many other devices can be used to move teeth. Functional and orthopaedics appliances are used in growing patients (age 5 to 13) with the aim to modify the jaw dimensions and relationship if these are altered. (See Prognathism.) This therapy is frequently followed by a fixed multibracket therapy to align the teeth and refine the occlusion.
Hawley retainers are the most common type of retainers. This picture shows retainers for the top and bottom of the mouth.
After a course of active orthodontic treatment, patients will often wear retainers, which will maintain the teeth in their improved position while the surrounding bone reforms around them. The retainers are generally worn full-time for a short period, perhaps 6 months to a year, and then worn periodically (typically nightly during sleep) for as long as the orthodontist recommends. It is possible for the teeth to stay aligned without regular retainer wear. However, there are many reasons teeth will crowd as a person ages; thus there is no guarantee that teeth, orthodontically treated or otherwise, will stay aligned without retention. For this reason, many orthodontists recommend periodic retainer wear for many years (or indefinitely) after orthodontic treatment.
The orthodontist will align the teeth with respect to the surrounding soft tissues, with or without movement of the underlying bones, which can be moved either through growth modification in children or jaw surgery in adults. Several appliances are utilized for growth modification; including functional appliances, headgear, and facemasks. These "orthopedic appliances" may influence the development of an adolescent's profile and give an improved aesthetic and functional result.
One of the most common situations leading to orthodontic treatment is crowding of the teeth. In this situation, there is insufficient room for the normal complement of adult teeth, which can sometimes result in teeth being extracted. Crowding of teeth is recognised as an affliction that stems in part from a modern western lifestyle. We do not know for sure whether it is due to the consistency of western diets; a result of mouthbreathing; or the result of an early loss of deciduous (milk, baby) teeth due to decay. It is also possible that Homo sapiens have evolved smaller jaws without a reduction in the number of teeth they will house happening at the same time. Orthodontics is not always for aesthetic purposes. Braces may be prescribed in cases of so-called "overbite" to help prevent teeth being knocked out in an accident, for example, hockey or skating.
Much has been made in the media of links between tooth extraction and temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction (problems, including clicking and jamming, of the jaw joint). No research has shown a definitive link between orthodontic treatment, extraction of teeth and jaw joint problems. Most temporo-mandibular joint problems are multifactorial in origin (that is having a number of possible etiologic agents).
Diagnosis and treatment planning
In diagnosis and treatment planning, the orthodontist must (1) recognize the various characteristics of malocclusion and dentofacial deformity; (2) define the nature of the problem, including the etiology if possible; and (3) design a treatment strategy based on the specific needs and desires of the individual. (4) present the treatment strategy to the patient in such a way that the patient fully understands the ramifications of his/her decision.
[References: T. M. Graber, R.L. Vanarsdall, Orthodontics, Current Principles and Techniques, "Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Orthodontics", D. M. Sarver, W.R. Proffit, J. L. Ackerman, Mosby, 2000]
Various countries have their own systems for training and registering specialist orthodontists; generally a period of full-time post-graduate study is required for a dentist to qualify as an orthodontist. The orthodontic specialty is the earliest dental specialty.
United Kingdom and Europe
In the United Kingdom, this training period lasts three years, after completion of a membership from a Royal College. A further two years is then completed to train to consultant level, after which a fellowship examination from the Royal College is sat. In Europe a similar pattern is followed. It is always worth contacting the professional body responsible for registering orthodontists to ensure that the orthodontist you wish to consult is a recognized specialist.
A number of medical and dental schools in the United States offer advanced education in the specialty of Orthodontics to dentists seeking postgraduate education. The courses range from two to three years of full-time classes and clinical work in the clinical and theoretical aspects of orthodontics. Generally, admission is based on an application process followed by an extensive interviewing process by the institution, in order to select the best candidate. Candidates usually have to contact the individual school directly for the application process. A list of orthodontic schools can be obtained from the American Association of Orthodonitists.
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