“Dental Plan…! Lisa needs braces!” should be the official rallying cry for Orthodontists everywhere. It’s when that line was spoken in the Simpsons episode, “Last Exit to Springfield” that my childhood crossed paths with the concept of having crooked teeth. The big reveal scene when Lisa sees her archaic headgear braces in a broken mirror and throws her head back in the dentist chair, laughing maniacally like the Joker, was probably when children like myself began to fear the dentist, or worse, bad bite.
Malocclusion, bad bite, is the misalignment of teeth, such as an under bite or overbite. Orthodontists, dentists who specialize in the aligning or straightening of teeth, strive to achieve occlusion, the perfect bite. These specialists known for solving overcrowding problems, and I don’t mean Starbucks in downtown Los Angeles, divide malocclusions into 3 classes:
Level 1 – Crooked or crowded teeth
Level 2 – Overbite: when the top layer of teeth overlaps the lower layer; often causes a buckteeth appearance.
Level 3 – Underbite: when the bottom layer of teeth overlaps the top.
The cause of malocclusion can be hereditary, the result of too much thumb sucking, or just abnormal dental problems we can’t help but have. Orthodontists have an array of appliances to straighten teeth, one of the most widely-known being braces. These metal brackets worn in the front or back of one’s teeth have relatively recently been upstaged by Invisalign, the clear counterparts to traditional braces. Even more notably, while the metal braces must stay permanently on the patient for an average 2-4 year period, Invisalign can be removed at any time.
Anyone from teenagers, who may see wearing braces as a rite of passage, to adults who are visiting the Orthodontist for the first time will experience similar exam stages. The pretreatment stage involves the exam when the orthodontist makes a mold and takes an x-ray of your teeth in order to decide which appliances will best straighten your smile. Once the dental appliance is placed on your teeth, you’re in the active treatment stage. It’s during this time you’ll occasionally visit the Orthodontist for a minor tweak to your dental appliance. The retention stage means you must wear a retainer. Forever! But seriously, if you don’t want your 4-year-long braces phase to be in vain, you’ll wear a retainer.
Wearing retainers is equivalent to paying your orthodontists, without doing so both of your hard work will be for nothing. Once the braces or dental appliance comes off, your teeth will settle into their permanent, straightened positions. They’ll remain there if you wear a retainer, a base with metal wiring shaped like your mouth to keep your teeth in place.
Whether you’re settled in downtown Los Angeles or Springfield, call Smile LA Dental for all the straight answers from your local orthodontists.