About Orthodontics


The word orthodontics literally means ‘straight teeth’.

Orthodontics is a fascinating and diverse area of dentistry.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry which specializes in the diagnosis and management of problems associated with the alignment of the teeth and jaws. It is the oldest speciality in dentistry and commands a great deal of knowledge and expertise about the face and teeth. The term for a bad bite is malocclusion. Treatment usually involves the use of braces, plates, expanders, functional appliances, and surgery if required.

Who is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dentist who has undergone further study to become a registered specialist in orthodontics. He or she is the most qualified person to treat problems associated with the alignment of your teeth and jaws. In Australia, to become an orthodontist you must:

  • Complete a Bachelor degree in Dentistry (a 5 year full-time University course)
  • Usually have practiced dentistry for at least 2 years
  • Complete a Masters degree in Orthodontics (a 3 year full-time University course)
  • Be a registered Specialist in Orthodontics with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Why straighten teeth?

Orthodontic treatment can change your life. It can be beneficial in many ways:

Appearance: In today’s society we are becoming increasingly cosmetically conscious. A beautiful smile is a great asset to have in social interactions. Orthodontic treatment can give a person straight teeth and an attractive smile which will serve them well for the rest of their life.

Confidence: Patients who are unhappy with their teeth may hide them and not smile. Orthodontics can enhance your self-esteem, confidence, and change the way both you and others see yourself. In this way, orthodontics can benefit you both professionally and socially.

Dental hygiene: It’s more difficult to keep your teeth clean when they are crowded and overlapping. This can make you more prone to plaque build-up and subsequent decay and gum disease. Furthermore, you may find that food constantly gets packed between your teeth. Straight teeth are easier to keep clean, therefore reducing the risk of cavities and periodontal disease.

Tooth wear: An uneven bite can lead to uneven wear of the teeth. Aligning your teeth properly can stop this from occurring.

Gum damage: In severe malocclusions, the lower teeth may bite on the gums of the palate causing them to be stripped away. Long-term this can lead to periodontal problems and tooth sensitivity. Orthodontics can eliminate traumatic bites such as these and improve the health of your oral tissues.

Speech: Some people have difficulty speaking because of poor alignment of the teeth and jaws.

Eating: A malocclusion can reduce our ability to chew food properly. By improving the occlusion, we can bite and chew more effectively.

When should I start treatment?

Orthodontic problems are usually evident by the age of seven so it is always wise to get an orthodontist’s opinion at this stage. The earlier things are detected, the easier it is to correct certain problems. Prevention is always better than a cure! In most cases however, orthodontics is usually commenced when all the baby teeth have been lost and the adult teeth are through. This is usually around the age of eleven. In the past, orthodontic treatment was generally reserved for children. However, the same process can be implemented at any age and orthodontic treatment is also successful in adults. If you think you have an orthodontic problem, it is best to see an orthodontist now!

Braces explained

Braces explained

A) What are braces?

Braces or fixed appliances are orthodontic appliances used to move teeth. They are the most common treatment modality used in orthodontics.

B) What are the components of braces?

parts of baces

Brackets are the small metal squares that are glued (bonded) to the teeth. They have a horizontal slot for the wire to sit in. There are two different types of brackets: stainless steel (metal) brackets, and ceramic (clear) brackets.

Bands are metal rings that are placed around the molar teeth. They are used only in certain situations. There are many sizes and shapes so the correct one has to be selected to accurately fit the tooth. Bands are sealed into position using dental cement that contains fluoride, which helps prevent decay and decalcification during treatment.

Tubes are, as the name implies, small metal tubes that are bonded to the molar teeth. The wire is threaded through the tubes and tucked in at the ends.

Archwires are metal wires that are threaded through the brackets. They are fitted for both the upper and lower jaws. There are three main types of wires: nickel-titanium (NiTi), titanium-molybdenum alloy (TMA), and stainless steel (SS). NiTi wires are used at the start of treatment to align all the teeth. They have memory where after bending and twisting them, they return to their original circular shape. This occurs over a period of 8-10 weeks. A TMA wire is next used to fine tune the positions of the teeth. Finally, a stainless steel wire is placed. Stainless steel wires are the strongest and stiffest wires and are used to pull teeth around and close spaces. The orthodontist uses many different sizes and shapes of wires for different effects.

Modules are tiny elastic rings. They come in all different colours (including clear and silver) and can be changed at each appointment. Modules are also known as O-rings or ligatures. They are placed around each bracket to hold the wire in the slot.

Hooks are small projections on selected brackets used to attach rubber bands to.

Elastics are rubber bands which are stretched between the upper and lower braces to move the teeth forward, backward, or together. They are fitted by placing the elastic over a bracket hook in the upper jaw then stretching it over a bracket hook in the lower jaw. The more elastics are worn, the more effective they are. There are two types of elastics: class 2 elastics and class 3 elastics. Class 2 elastics are run from the top front teeth to the bottom back teeth. Class 3 elastics are run from the top back teeth to the bottom front teeth.

Coil springs are springs that slide over the wire and fit between the brackets. They are used to push two teeth apart and create space.

Powerchain is an elastic chain with many links. It is stretched over all the teeth, from one side to the other, to squeeze them together and close spaces.

C) How do braces work? Braces work by gently moving teeth into their correct positions. This is done by exerting a very light force through the wires. Teeth move at a rate of about 1mm per month. Sometimes the upper and lower teeth need to be moved relative to one another, and this is when rubber bands are used. Once the teeth are aligned and the bite is good, the braces are removed and retainers are placed to hold things where they are.