The ancient Greeks had a word for it – orthodontics – straight teeth. They even knew a way to make the crooked straight – using a combination of common metals and cat gut. And although the cats couldn’t have been happy about it, humans have been smiling ever since.

Those smiles derive from being happy with the cosmetic advantages of having a row of straight teeth. Nevertheless, there are also medical benefits of correctly aligned teeth:

•Maintain tooth health

•Easier to clean well aligned teeth

•Easier to chew

•Avoids gum disease, which can cause tooth loss and/or a serious infection that can lead to heart disease

These days even adults seek out cosmetic dentistry. Ideally, though, children should have their bite checked at around age 8. Often, family dental services will function as the filtering mechanism for this evaluation. If it seems like young mouths will be too small for the size of the emerging permanent teeth, Interception Orthodontia can be performed to expand the palate’s arch. At times, this is all that is necessary to keep things in line. Otherwise, 12 is the average age for braces.

It is interesting to note that we have only developed orthodontic problems in the last 10,000 years or so. Early humans evidently had excellent bites. However, as our diets improved over the millennia, most of our bodies grew bigger, but our mouths and teeth didn’t develop at the same rate. So, the saying, “Your teeth are too big for your mouth,” makes sense. The same is true of palate stretching.

The cost of orthodontia depends on geography and the difficulty of the problem. A simple overbite undergoing treatment in a rural area could carry a $3,000 price tag. An extreme malocclusion (bad bite) in a large city might cost as much as $7,000 or more. Many dental insurance policies cover orthodontic treatment and often Orthodontists themselves provide payment plans.

Having braces in childhood can avoid poor jaw development and the long-term consequences of jagged teeth in adulthood – tooth loss and grinding, or TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder), an inflammation of the temporomandibular joint. This joint is the connector between the jaw and skull, and if it’s not healthy, it can cause difficulty with biting and chewing, a painful jaw and face, a clicking sound when the mouth opens or closes, even difficulty in completely opening the mouth, and loss of hearing.

There are many modern alternatives and appliances to correct crooked teeth – from the traditional brackets and wires to Invisalign(TM) (“invisible” braces), braces in “designer” colors, even lingual braces that are fastened to the backs of teeth. As well, Orthodontists use sophisticated computer software to track and customize their patients’ progress.

The goal, however, is the same — beautiful — and healthy smiles.

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West Hills Dental Services, a Portland Oregon Family Dental Office is highly recommended by author Stephen Daniels. Specializing in conscious sedation, their experienced dentists can help with all routine dental care and most cosmetic dental procedures, in addition to a wide range of anxiety-free treatments for the whole family.

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