HER teeth were her worst feature. they were crooked, with protruding upper incisors, creating a gap that misaligned her jaws, making it difficult to close the mouth.
Maria Mukyala, â€œthe girl with a disorganised dental formula and robot mouthâ€ as she was commonly referred to by her peers, was always conscious of her appearance, which greatly affected her self-esteem.
Her classmate, who had been nicknamed Alice â€˜the metal mouthâ€™ (because she wore braces), assured her that her (Mukyalaâ€™s) teeth could be corrected with braces.
At 25 years, Mukyala made her first visit to on orthodontist (a dentist who specialises in correcting irregularities of the teeth), against discouragement from her friends that braces were for children.
Braces are devices used to move teeth or adjust the underlying bone. They straighten crooked teeth, relieve pressure on the joints in the mouth and align the jaws. Braces consist of bands, wires and other fixed or removable corrective appliances.
They apply pressure over a period of time and slowly move teeth in a specific direction. As the teeth move, the bony teeth socket reabsorb and change shape.The prodedure may necessitate an X-ray of the mouth and head before treatment starts.
â€œIn some cases, a removable retainer is all that is necessary, while in some rare cases especially when there is an extreme overbite or underbite, surgery may be required,â€ Dr. Robert Dyabe, an orthodontist from Ebenezer Dental Clinic in Ntinda, says.
A retainer is a custom-made, removable appliance that helps the teeth maintain their new position after braces have been removed.
When should teeth be corrected?
Dyabe says teeth can be corrected at any age although ideal results can be achieved in most children and a small percentage of adults. â€œIn children, the bone around the teeth and the jaw bones can be molded by braces.
In adults the jawbones can be altered only by surgery. Therefore, it is recommended that orthodontic intervention be considered as soon as a child, parent, or dentist notices a problem in teeth alignment.â€
He says the ideal age for starting orthodontic treatment ranges from three to 12 years. Treatment aligns the teeth and improves facial features.
â€œOrthodontic treatment in adults is more difficult and should not go beyond 30 years. It takes a long time because the gums would have matured. Dyabe says for effective treatment, adults need to wear retainer braces at night for the rest of their lives.
What causes crooked teeth?
â€œSome peopleâ€™s mouths are too small for their teeth, which crowds the teeth and causes them to shift.
In other cases, a personâ€™s upper and lower jaws arenâ€™t the same size or are malformed, resulting in an overbite (when there is excessive protrusion of the upper jaw) or an under bite (when the lower jaw protrudes forward, causing the lower jaw and teeth to extend out beyond the upper teeth),â€ Internet health site medicinenet. com reveals.
Dyabe says there might be inherited traits â€” early loss of baby or adult teeth, improper fit of fillings or crowns and a small jaw that cannot accommodate erupting teeth.
Others are gum disease, undue pressure on the teeth and gums, misalignment of jaw after severe facial injury and tumors in the mouth or jaw.
Habits such as thumb-sucking, tongue thrusting, using a pacifier beyond the age of three, or the prolonged use of a bottle can lead to crooked teeth and jaws.
This can also cause abnormal appearance, difficulty when eating and speech difficulties, including a lisp. â€œSucking can create open bites where the upper and lower front teeth do not meet.
Theis can lead to protrusive teeth and upper lips. Excessive sucking causes the cheek muscles to constrict the upper dental arch.
After your braces are taken off, your teeth will be thoroughly cleaned. Your orthodontist may want to take another set of x-rays and bite impressions to check how well the braces straightened your teeth and to see if any wisdom teeth have developed.
If wisdom teeth are beginning to come in after your braces have been removed, your orthodontist may recommend that they be pulled out to prevent your newly straightened teeth from shifting position.
Your orthodontist will also fit you with a retainer. Retainers, which are typically made of rubber or clear plastic and metal wires that cover the outside surface of the teeth, need to be worn all the time for the first six months and then usually only during sleep.
The time frame for wearing a retainer will vary from patient to patient. The reason why a retainer is needed is that even though braces may have successfully straightened your teeth, they are not completely settled in their new position until the bones, gums and muscles adapt to the change. Also, after long periods of time, teeth tend to shift.
Types of braces include:
Brackets: The small squares that are bonded directly to each tooth with a special dental bonding agent or are attached to orthodontic bands.
Orthodontic bands: These wrap around each tooth to provide an anchor for the brackets. The clear or tooth-coloured bands are more cosmetically appealing, but more expensive than stainless steel.
They are not used in all patients. Some people have only brackets and no bands.
Spacers-separators: These fit between teeth to create a small space prior to placement of orthodontic bands.
Arch wires: They attach to the brackets and act as tracks to guide the movement of the teeth.
Ties-small rubber rings or fine wires: They fasten the arch wire to the brackets.
A buccal tube-on the band of the last molar: This holds the end of the arch wire securely in place.
Ligatures: These tiny elastic rubber bands hold the arch wires to the brackets. Springs may be placed on the arch wires between brackets to close the spaces between teeth.
Two bands on the upper teeth may have headgear tubes on them to hold the face-bow of the headgear in place. (A headgear is used by orthodontists to aid in correcting irregularities of the teeth).
WHAT IS THE DURATION AND COST?
Dr. Robert Dyabe, an orthodontist says treatment lasts three to 18 months in children and two to three years in adults.
â€œI started wearing braces last year and have spent sh900,000. The doctor says I am doing well and could remove them sooner than expected. My nose is gaining a fine shape,â€ one Maria Mukyala says. However, the cost can go up to sh4,000,000, depending on the condition.
There is discomfort in the begining because one feels pressure in the teeth as the underlying bone remodels. Sometimes, the braces scratch the cheeks or lips, while some people develop headache.
In fixed braces, pressure lasts about two to four days after each adjustment. One is advised to eat soft food and use mild pain relievers.
Complied by Vision Reporter
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