You’ve probably heard Andy Williams sing during the December holidays about how it’s “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

Although there’s no question that the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays pack a lot of good cheer, for us, one of the “hap-happiest seasons of all” is celebrated for an entire month: National Orthodontic Health Month in October.

National Orthodontic Health Month is our opportunity to have fun with our patients by offering activities such as Halloween-themed coloring sheetsand hosting the candy buy back program. It also presents a chance to deliver information about orthodontic treatment to the public.

Here are some interesting facts about orthodontics that we hope you’ll share with your friends throughout October.

Children should be evaluated by an orthodontist at age 7.

This is a crucial age for evaluation because children have a mixture of baby and adult teeth by this age, and the bite is established. If there are bite issues present, it is good to get them diagnosed and addressed if necessary because doing so can make orthodontic treatment less invasive in the future. Some problems can be corrected by guiding a child’s jaw growth. In some cases, early treatment can prevent children from needing teeth extractions or jaw surgery later in life.

Braces aren’t just for kids anymore.

In 2014, 1.4 million adults sought treatment from orthodontists in the U.S. and Canada, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. We see lots of adults in our practice, too. The majority of our patients continue to be around  ages 9 to 14, but countless adults and parents of our minor patients pursue treatment because of the aesthetic and health benefits that orthodontics provides.

Braces are out of this world.

The alloy used in orthodontic braces was developed by NASA to coat spacecraft. NASA also developed memory alloys that can return to a shape they have been bent to, which are used in orthodontic treatment.

Even the clear plastic in aligners used in aesthetic treatment were developed by NASA. Their original intent was to hide missiles in military operations.

Aesthetics aren’t the only reason for braces.

Your teeth serve several important functions, including supporting your cheeks and lips, and enabling you to chew your food properly so you get all the nutrients out of it. Teeth that aren’t properly aligned can cause jaw pain, headaches and premature tooth wear. They also can make it easier for food particles to collect, which can promote tartar and plaque accumulation. Orthodontic treatment often is prescribed to address these sorts of issues. The beautiful smile that you get at the end of treatment is an added bonus.

Aesthetic orthodontic appliances treat a wider variety of malocclusions than ever.

One hang-up often expressed by adult patients is that they don’t want to wear metal brackets and arch wires as part of their treatment. The good news is that we have a range of aesthetic treatment options, including Invisalign, clear brackets made from ceramic or sapphire, and lingual braces, which are cemented to the back of the teeth. These options are less noticeable than conventional braces, and they are effective at treating all sorts of malocclusions, including overjet, overbite, underbite, crossbite, crowded teeth and spaces between teeth.

Ancient Eqyptians wore braces.

The first practical orthodontic appliances were used in the 18thcentury and were fine-tuned in the early 1900s, but orthodontic treatment goes back thousands of years before that, according to the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. Archaeologists have found crooked teeth in human remains dating back 50,000 years. Crude forms of braces have been found in Egyptian mummies. Archaeologists believe catgut may have been tied to these bands to provide pressure to move the teeth.

There’s a difference between dentists and orthodontists.

All orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. In fact, only about 5 percent of dentists go on to successfully complete the additional two to three years of  study in an accredited orthodontic residency program required to become an orthodontist.

An orthodontist’s path to his/her profession is similar to that of medical doctors who pursue specialties, such as cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons and ophthalmologists. Orthodontists pursue more specific training and gain targeted experience in correcting teeth alignment and bite issues. This level of training isn’t provided in dental school.

Your teeth shift throughout your life.

Even with orthodontic treatment, our teeth are prone to shifting as we age. Teeth tend to shift forward as we get older, which makes the front of the mouth more crowded.

Therefore, retainers need to be part of your life forever.

Because of the natural inclination to shift, it’s important that you continue to wear your retainer periodically from now on. You can gradually decrease retainer wear the longer you are out of orthodontic treatment, but it’s a good idea to continue wearing it a few times a week. It’s an even better idea to get in the habit of popping it in every night before you go to sleep. If you go several days without wearing your retainer and you feel pressure when you put it on again, that’s a sign that your teeth have shifted slightly. Wear it nightly until you no longer feel the pressure.

That is, unless you don’t mind retreatment.

There are some estimates that almost 25 percent of orthodontic patients get retreatment later in life because they failed to wear their retainer as prescribed. Many of our adult patients who schedule consultations with us tell us that they had braces during childhood, but their teeth gradually went out of alignment through the years.

Orthodontic treatment promotes good oral health.

Teeth that are properly aligned and spaced are easier to brush and floss. They also make it more difficult for food particles to collect in tight nooks and crannies. All of this means your dental visits for routine teeth cleanings should be more pleasant because your dental hygienist may not have to work as hard to clean your teeth, provided you have a good home hygiene regimen.

Learn More

I hope you found this information interesting and enlightening. If you would like to learn more about how to improve your oral health and smile aesthetics through orthodontic treatment, please call our office to schedule a consultation. Happy National Orthodontic Health Month!