The planning stage is the most crucial phase in orthodontic treatment. During this phase, the orthodontist pinpoints a diagnosis and plans the most effective treatment. The planning phase includes conducting thorough examinations, taking x-rays and keeping meticulous dental and medical records.
Orthodontic treatment is highly predictable, successful and beneficial when planned appropriately. Not only does a straight smile look attractive, but it also helps stave off a wide range of dental and physical problems, which include:
- Tooth Decay – Improper alignment can reduce the effectiveness of oral hygiene at home. Hard-to-reach places created by crooked teeth can become breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.
- Gum Disease - Periodontal disease is a result of a bacterial infection within the gums. Poor oral hygiene resulting from misalignment can cause gum recession, jawbone deterioration and tooth loss.
- Digestive Disorders – Misalignment commonly impairs chewing function. This leads to improperly chewed food working its way through the digestive system, contributing to digestive discomforts and disorders.
What Types of Orthodontic Exams Will Be Conducted?
The first visit to the orthodontist can involve different examinations to determine what treatments are required and how they will impact the teeth and jaws. It is highly beneficial for the orthodontist to create treatment plans with as much information as possible.
Here is an overview of the types of orthodontic examinations and records that the orthodontist uses to plan treatment:
Medical and Dental History Evaluation
Orthodontic treatments cannot begin until other existing medical and dental issues are resolved or are at least under control. Gum disease, for example, is often exacerbated by fixed braces and must be treated prior to orthodontic treatment. Dental health greatly impacts physical health and vice versa. Certain prescription medications can affect teeth and gums, so great care must be taken to evaluate the whole picture of medical and dental concerns.
Bite impressions or molds are invaluable tools in determining the exact nature of the malocclusion. Molds allow a closer look at how the upper and lower jaws fit together. Alginate, a soft material that hardens on the teeth, is poured into a horseshoe-shaped tray, producing an imprint. Plaster is then poured into the impressions, resulting in a model of the teeth.
Photographs of the Face and Mouth
The orthodontist takes regular photographs of the face and mouth. This shows how the treatment is progressing and impacting overall facial appearance. Facial photographs also allow for the measurement of facial proportions.
Computer-Generated Pictures of the Head and Neck
Computer-generated pictures of the head and neck allow the orthodontist to measure facial proportions and to determine ideal facial aesthetic. Facial appearance is an important consideration to make when planning treatment.
Panoramic X-rays of the Jaws and Teeth
Panoramic x-rays offer excellent insight into the general health of the teeth, gums and jawbone. X-rays show precise root structures of the teeth and inform the orthodontist as to how the upper and lower jaws fit together. X-rays of the temporomandibular jaw joint may also be taken, as necessary.
If you have any questions about orthodontic examinations or records, please ask your dental professional.