Orthodontic treatment has become more common in children and adults as it can help fix gaps, align teeth and improve aesthetics and function. If you have ever wished to change the appearance of your smile, it is important to understand the various options available.
For some people, spaces or gaps in between teeth are often a welcome part of their character and define their appearance. This is something they value and are happy to maintain. For others, the desire to fix a gap in their teeth leads them to a dentist to discuss the possibilities. Orthodontic braces or aligners can be used to move teeth into a more ideal position as opposed to using veneers or filling materials to fix gaps.
It is not just about looks because gaps in teeth can lead to excess food trapping that makes cleaning very difficult. In time this can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Orthodontic treatment with a general dentist, or a specialist orthodontist starts with a consultation to assess your smile and discuss your goals. A joint approach of orthodontic braces or aligners, tooth whitening, veneers or composite builds may be necessary if you are after a particular look.
Orthodontics alone is the least invasive method if you want to fix a gap in your teeth. Least invasive, means the tooth is not trimmed or added to, and its natural form is preserved. The teeth are simply moved into the correct position and once complete, the aligner attachment or wire is removed leaving the original tooth untouched. The amount of time it takes to fix gaps is dependent on the size of the spaces and how much other work is required to rotate and align teeth. One to two years is a typical range of orthodontic treatment.
Clear aligners, such as Invisalign or Smile Styler are different to traditional orthodontic braces. These systems are becoming increasingly popular as they are more discrete. They use computer software to generate a prediction of what your ideal smile looks like and series of clear trays is fabricated to gradually move your teeth into position. Each aligner is used for approximately 2 weeks before moving onto the next one. This is similar to orthodontic braces which are adjusted regularly to reposition the teeth and fix the gaps.
Clear aligners are usually only indicated in adults because they are required to be worn 23 hours per day and taken out only for meals and cleaning. This high level of compliance is essential to ensure that the teeth move according to the plan and within the given time – frame. Fixed orthodontic braces are still used for adults and on most children and teenagers to increase the likely hood of successful outcomes.
With both braces and clear aligners, it is critical to maintain excellent oral hygiene to keep your teeth and gums healthy in the duration of your treatment.
An alternative way to fix a gap in your teeth is to consider adding white filling material ( also known as composite bonding) or porcelain veneers or crowns. With these treatments, the shape of your teeth is altered to try and close the spaces. If the space is too large, there is a risk that making the teeth excessively wider can lead to a less desirable outcome. This is where a combined approach may be necessary.
The biggest advantage of porcelain veneers or composite filling build ups is the speed of treatment and the ability to change the colour and other proportions. These options can be completed in only a few appointments, meaning it is possible to have your new smile within a month, compared to the extended waiting times of orthodontics.
Composite fillings or porcelain veneers often require very small amounts of natural tooth structure to be removed in order to be bonded successfully, appear natural and have acceptable longevity. Whilst they can last between 5 to 15 years, it is important to understand that they will need to be replaced in the future and have a higher requirement of maintenance.
Once you fix gaps in teeth with orthodontic treatment, it is still necessary to hold your teeth in the final position. This is done using retainers in the form of a wire that is glued to the back of the lower teeth, or a clear retainer that fits over all teeth and must be worn overnight. Without these options it is possible that your teeth may drift back to their original position and require retreating.
Your dentist is always happy to evaluate your smile and talk about what options are available for your circumstances. It is important to consider you overall treatment goals, your budget and your long-term maintenance requirements before you commit to a course of treatment.