An orthodontist might require highly specialised skills and years of training, but that doesn’t mean the orthodontic process has to be complicated for you as the patient.
In fact, orthodontic treatment is really quite simple, and seeing an orthodontist offers benefits that can set you up for a lifetime of good dental health and a truly beaming smile.
If you’re wondering what’s involved, here’s a guide to the orthodontic process in six simple steps.
Why you need an orthodontist
Put simply, an orthodontist should be among the list of health practitioners you consult with over the course of your child’s life and your own.
As Orthodontics Australia explains, orthodontists might be known for straightening teeth but their role extends far beyond that.
“Orthodontists are dental specialists who are University trained in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dental and facial irregularities,” they state.
“They provide a wide range of treatment options to straighten crooked teeth, fix bad bites and align the jaws correctly.”
That means orthodontists can assist with a whole range of issues extending from painful and misaligned bites, to tooth movement caused by bad habits like thumb sucking, and even some forms of sleep apnoea.
Meanwhile, the benefits of orthodontic treatment can set you up for a lifetime of better dental health.
How? Because straight, aligned teeth are easier to keep clean and therefore less prone to decay, while proper alignment and a correct bite help guard your teeth against unnecessary wear and trauma.
So how do you embark on the orthodontic process?
Step 1 – Choose your orthodontist
As with any health professional, you should take your time to find the right orthodontist for you or your child.
The key attributes you are looking for include:
Qualifications and accreditation – After five years of studying general dentistry and two years clinical experience working as a dentist, an orthodontist undertakes a further three years study to specialise in this field.
Reputation – In addition to qualifications, the reputation of a great orthodontist tends to precede them, while a portfolio of the results they have achieved will also indicate the calibre of their work.
The right environment – It’s vital you feel welcome and comfortable in the orthodontist clinic you select. Items to consider include the attitude of the staff, the general cleanliness of the clinic and the age and condition of the equipment.
Meanwhile, the orthodontist should be accessible and willing to take the time to explain the process and treatment options with you.
Step 2 – The initial assessment
The first appointment with your orthodontist is the chance for you to get to know each other and for the orthodontist to assess what type of work, if any, is required.
Ideally this assessment occurs when your child is aged about seven. At this age many of the permanent teeth have begun to emerge and the orthodontist can flag any potential issues.
Importantly, in some cases, this assessment allows for early intervention which can result in less invasive orthodontic treatment and reduce the likelihood of teeth having to be extracted at a later date.
If orthodontic treatment looks likely, the orthodontist will then take X-rays, images and casts or digital scans of the mouth to assist with the comprehensive planning of treatment.
Step 3 – Understand your options
Once your orthodontist has formulated a treatment plan, it’s important you understand exactly what’s involved, including the type of work that will take place, the estimated time frame and the cost.
At Norwest Orthodontics, we see this as a critically important part of the treatment process and take the time to:
- Explain the treatment you may require and the types of appliances that can be used
- Explain the length of treatment and what you can expect at each appointment
- Answer all your questions relating to your orthodontic treatment and discuss the financial arrangement
- At this stage we also advise you of the cost of your orthodontic treatment and can work out a treatment payment plan to suit your requirements.
Step 4 – Commence treatment
Once you have decided you wish to proceed with orthodontic treatment and you have discussed with your orthodontist the option that best suits you, it’s down to business. Depending on what you require this could take a variety of forms.
At Norwest Orthodontics, we commence treatment by using the detailed scans, x-rays and images, to custom make your oral appliances or digitally plan your braces treatment.
In the case of braces, you or your child will then attend an initial fitting where the brackets are attached to the teeth and the arch wire is inserted. Taking about an hour, this appointment will also involve education about braces care and oral hygiene.
In the instance of Invisalign, you will be given your first set of clear aligners to wear and receive guidance on wearing and cleaning them.
If you’re being treated for sleep apnoea using an appliance like SomnoDent, the custom-made appliance will be fitted, and you will be given guidance on its use.
Step 5 – Ongoing care
Orthodontic treatment is a process, and part of that involves returning to your orthodontist on a regular basis for adjustments and check-ups.
Meanwhile, looking after your braces or wearing your orthodontic appliance as prescribed is vital to the success of your treatment.
If you have braces, you need to be extra vigilant in terms of oral hygiene, and you will also need to avoid certain foods such sticky lollies or hard fruits, crunchy vegetables and nuts.
Step 6 – After care
Orthodontic treatment doesn’t end once your braces come off or your last Invisalign aligner is discarded, with a vital part of the orthodontic process being maintaining the position of the teeth.
Most patients will be required to wear a retainer. This involves a fixed metal wire retainer that sits behind the teeth and a removable plastic retainer that is worn nightly.
About Norwest Orthodontics
Norwest Orthodontics specialises in helping you achieve a great smile, no matter your age. We feature a range of orthodontic treatments that span from early intervention right through to remedial adult work.
We also have a suite of treatments available that include discreet, removeable Invisalign braces, and welcome the opportunity to work with you to achieve the smile you’ve always dreamed of.