The Three Stages of Orthodontic Treatment Explained

Orthodontic treatment is an important step towards achieving a successful smile. Learn about each stage: planning, active & retention.

The Three Stages of Orthodontic Treatment Explained

At your first orthodontic consultation, your dentist will review the position of all your teeth and decide what options are available to you. They will also check the health of your teeth and gums, and take diagnostic photographs and intraoral scans. X-rays are an important clinical evaluation tool for orthodontists, as they allow us to see the roots of the teeth and jaw and detect any underlying oral health problems. If there are any signs of gum disease, they should be treated before applying orthodontic appliances.

If the X-ray reveals any teeth stuck in the jaw or problems in the jaw joint, a more complex 3-dimensional X-ray, such as a cone beam scan, may be necessary. For some patients (generally younger), the orthodontist may recommend that orthodontic treatment begin with expanders. Expanders, suitable only for patients whose palate has not yet fused, allow us to widen the jaw so that the teeth have more room to fit in the larger jaw. Without the use of an expander, some patients may need to have some teeth removed to help with their overcrowding problem.

Some patients may need another series of x-rays to check the position of the tooth roots and to help reposition the supports. All patients go to the orthodontist six, nine and twelve months after using braces to check their teeth, and then have annual checkups to check that the retainers are still in their correct place and that their teeth are in their correct place. If your wisdom teeth haven't come out yet, X-rays every two years will allow the dentist to check them. An impacted, infected, or erupted wisdom tooth can cause problems and the movement of surrounding teeth. The three stages of orthodontic treatment are vital to ensure that the end result is a beautiful, perfectly aligned smile. On a basic level, braces and other types of treatments gently move your teeth so that they align over time.

All patients should visit their dentist before their orthodontic appliances are fitted, have a scale made and cleaned. When the teeth are properly aligned, the fixed orthodontic appliances and removable devices will be removed and suspended. We will then prepare each tooth before using dental glue, to adhere the supports to the face of the tooth (or to the back in the case of lingual braces). For this part, braces are normally placed on both the maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) teeth so that the two sets of teeth “fit” them and combine them together. During this retention phase, the jaw will begin to reform and strengthen around the realigned teeth to fully stabilize them in place. However, you must continue to use the retainer as instructed.

Orthodontic treatment is an important step towards achieving a successful smile.