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How to straighten up and bite right

Aug 10, 2012

Brace yourselves! In August our blog will take a healthy bite at the straight facts about orthodontia.  We'll explore what orthodontia is, how it helps re-position teeth and how the corrective action it provides aids in the development of winning smiles.

We will not deal in rumors and innuendo like when I was in high school and we swore we could hear AM radio stations if we sat near a classmate wearing metal braces. Ahh, youth... 

What exactly is orthodontics? It’s a specialized branch of dentistry that corrects teeth and jaws that are not positioned correctly. Many people think that orthodontic treatment is only for children, but thank to advances in technology and corrective appliances design, orthodontic treatment is now a popular option for adults too.

Dental specialists working in this field are called orthodontists.  Cynics may also call them expensive but do you know any experts that have spent six years training that aren’t expensive? Orthodontists receive two additional years of education beyond the standard four years of dental school in an American Dental Association-approved orthodontic training program.

There are seven different types of problems which orthodontia corrects:

  • Overbite (also known as “buck teeth”) – the upper front teeth stick lie too far forward, or stick out, over the lower teeth. 


  • Underbite – the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth too far back.

  • Crossbite – the upper teeth are misaligned and do not come down properly when biting together with the lower teeth.

  • Open bite – space exists between the biting surfaces of the front and/or side teeth when the back teeth bite together.

  • Misplaced midline – the center of your upper front teeth are misaligned with the center of your lower front teeth
  • Spacing – spaces, or gaps, exist between teeth due to missing teeth or teeth that do not properly fill up the mouth

These different teeth/jaw problems are called malocclusions. This comes from a Latin word meaning “bad bite.” Like blue eyes or body build, malocclusions are often inherited traits. The important takeaway is that crooked and ill-fitting teeth or teeth that don’t work properly detract from one’s personal appearance, are harder to clean and can cause extra stress on the jaw that can lead to headaches, temporomandibular syndrome (TMS) and neck, shoulder and back pain. 

Orthodontists use fixed and removable appliances to correct how the teeth and jaws are aligned. Fixed appliances include braces and fixed space maintainers.

  • Braces – these are the most common fixed appliances. Braces are made of bands, wires and/or brackets. Fortunately for those wearing braces today times have changed and braces are less noticeable and even attractive. 

Braces fix bands around the teeth, or tooth, and use them as anchors for the appliance. Brackets are usually bonded to the front of the tooth. Arch wires are passed through brackets and attached to small elastic bands called ligatures.

Springs may be placed on the arch wires between brackets to push, pull, open, or close the spaces between teeth. Tightening the arch puts tension on the teeth, gradually aligning them to the proper position within a few months or years depending upon the situation.

Like fuel-efficient cars, braces today are smaller, lighter and show far less metal. Kids can wear them as a fashion accessory since they are now available in bright colors although clear styles are generally preferred by less flashy youngsters and most adults.

  • Space maintainers are used when a baby tooth is lost prematurely. The fixed space maintainer is used to keep open space until the permanent tooth erupts. This is done by attaching a band to the tooth next to the empty space and extending a wire to the tooth on the other side of the empty space.

One other fixed appliance is used in orthodontia in rare cares. A special fixed appliance may be used as a last resort to cure thumb sucking or tongue thrusting. In this case the appliance is attached to the teeth with bands. These devices are very uncomfortable to eat with so they are only used as a last resort.

How do you know if you need orthodontics? Your dentist or an orthodontist is the best person to contact and make recommendations as to orthopedic options that may improve your personal situation. In our next post we will look at removable appliances used in orthodontia such as aligners, removable space maintainers and headgear.

Thanks for reading Agent Straight Talk and remember: If you don’t start the day with a smile, it’s not too late to start practicing for tomorrow.  Email me at:

Copyright 2012, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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