When orthodontic treatment might be needed

Crooked, crowded and overlapping teeth can cause a range of problems, including:

  • Tooth decay and gum disease – teeth which are very close together can be harder to clean properly. A build-up of plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Injury to the gum – if a tooth doesn’t meet with its partner on the opposite jaw properly, it may dig into the gum and cause damage.
  • Wear and tear – if teeth don’t sit properly the action of chewing can wear them unevenly.
  • Self-confidence – teeth problems can make people feel embarrassed and they may not feel comfortable to smile.

Diagnosis of teeth and jaw alignment problems

Problems with teeth and jaw alignment are identified using a number of tests, including:

  • x-rays of the mouth
  • impressions of the upper and lower jaws, which are used to make plaster casts.

Examples of orthodontic problems

Some common orthodontic problems are:

  • Excessive overbite – is when the top teeth bite over the bottom teeth more than normal. With teeth closed, you would normally expect to see about half of the lower teeth. If you see less than half, this could be an excessive overbite.
  • Underbite – the bottom jaw sits further forward that normal. When teeth are closed, the lower front teeth sit in front of the upper front teeth.
  • Crossbite

  • Protruded teeth – when the upper jaw sits further forward than the lower jaw. With the teeth together, you would expect the upper teeth to sit on the inside of the lower lip. If they sit over the lower lip, this might be a sign of protruded teeth. A person with protruded teeth is more at risk of tooth damage or loss from accidents and may have speech or eating problems. Many people also choose to correct protruded teeth for cosmetic reasons.
  • Crowded teeth – there is not enough space for teeth to sit side by side and they overlap. Can be caused by large teeth, a small jaw, or both.

Examples of orthodontic treatments

A range of orthodontic devices may be used to move teeth, or to keep them in place. These include:

  • Braces – tiny brackets are attached to the front of each tooth, and a wire is tied to them. The constant gentle pressure of the wire slowly moves the teeth.
  • Elastics – these small rubber bands are stretched between upper and lower braces for extra force to move teeth.
  • Orthodontic Plates – a plastic device that sits in the mouth and uses wires and springs to push teeth into a particular position, or to hold them in place. Unlike braces, a plate can be taken out of the mouth.