Never before in history have the Western world had it so good when it comes to smiles. With the economic slowdown, Brexit, ensuing crises in the NHS, and world politics (dare I say Trump) on everyone’s minds, it may not feel like there is a whole lot to smile about. But straight teeth and super-white smiles are lighting up faces more than ever before. Cosmetic dentistry is no longer confined to the rich and famous.
The healthy smile market is booming, with a range of teeth straightening treatments and teeth whitening options available in many private dentist practices, as well as in specialist treatment centres. The pursuit of the perfect smile is as natural these days as getting a pedicure. Smiling, and the pursuit of straight, white teeth, are it seems contagious.
Orthodontistry – how far we’ve come
So what is orthodontistry? Orthodontics is a dentistry term derived from the Greek word ‘orthos’, meaning correct or straight and ‘odont’, meaning tooth. It’s not a modern phenomenon. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, archaeologists have found mummified ancients with metal bands on their teeth. In addition, “primitive (and surprisingly well-designed) orthodontic appliances have been found with Greek and Etruscan artefacts.”
Malocclusion is the term given for an abnormal alignment of the teeth. Evidence from human skulls suggests that crooked and protruding teeth has blighted humanity since Neanderthal man (that’s about 50,000 BC!).
In Tim Burton’s darker re-make of the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka (played brilliantly by Johnny Depp) is haunted by his father’s commitment to dentistry and his hatred for sweets. The gruesome braces and headgear worn by Willy as a boy are enough to get everyone screaming that they love their wonky teeth. More like a medieval torture outfit than the braces of today, it’s hardly surprising that poor Willy suffers haunting flashbacks.
Orthodontistry today is a branch of dentistry that specialises in the treatment of improper teeth positioning. In extreme cases it also includes treating and controlling various aspects of facial growth and the development of the jaw.
Orthodontics use a variety of dental devices to realign teeth, including plates and braces, and in extreme cases headgear. For less complicated cases of teeth straightening, the dental devices available now are a far cry from the torturous looking braces of the past.
Common orthodontic problems
Everyone is different and some of us are more bothered by the appearance of our teeth than others. There are many reasons people seek orthodontic treatment, some for cosmetic reasons, others for genuine health reasons. The most common problems that benefit from orthodontistry are:
- Protruding front teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Impacted teeth
- Asymmetrical teeth
- Deep bite or overbite (upper teeth come down over the lower teeth too much)
- Reverse bite (upper teeth bite inside the lower ones)
- Open bite (when teeth are clenched there is an opening between upper and lower teeth)
- Underbite (lower teeth are too far forward)
- Crossbite (teeth are closer to the cheek or tongue than their corresponding antagonist teeth)
- Gaps between teeth
Orthodontic appliances and the magic of invisible braces
The type of treatment used to correct the position of teeth will depend entirely on the individual case. Very extreme cases may involve fixed braces and even surgery to realign the jaw, as well as the use of headgear (usually only worn at night). However, in most cases there are 3 main options:
- Fixed braces (non-removable and made of metal brackets and wires)
- Removable braces (plastic plates that cover the roof of the mouth and clip on to some teeth)
- Functional appliances (a pair of removable plastic braces that are joined or designed to interact together)
Modern cosmetic dentistry has come a long way. In the past, uncomfortable and unsightly braces have been a put off for many who dream about having straighter teeth. But now, for those with less complex problems, the options are quite simply magical!
Invisible braces are giving people back their smiles like never before. Invisalign pioneered the world’s first clear aligners. With a system that uses invisible braces, and takes as little as 3 months to correct crooked teeth, it’s no wonder more people are turning to cosmetic dentistry more than ever before.
Cost has also been an issue for many. Put off by extortionate dentistry bills, many have opted to learn to love their less-than-perfect smiles. But with modern cosmetic dentistry making advances all the time, it’s worth checking with your dentist what the actual cost for a straighter smile could actually be.
In the US you don’t even have to take a trip to the dentist. Smile Direct Club is shaking up the dentist industry. They take impressions at their Smile Shop in Manhattan’s West Village and send monthly invisible retainers by post for as little as US$99 for 15 months (plus a US$250 deposit).
The healthy smile market is booming, and we love that so many peeps are getting the smile they’ve dreamed of, but is the Smile Club a step too far? Dentistry without a dentist doesn’t seem quite right somehow.