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Orthodontics Make a Difference

Orthodontics Make a Difference
By Philip L. Levin, MD

Nothing says friendliness like a dazzling open smile. Dental health not only serves to create a great impression, but strong teeth and an even bite also help us get good nutrition and overall health. Dental disease has been linked to a variety of illnesses, from heart diseases to premature births.

Our “adult” teeth begin to emerge at age six, with complete eruption of all 32 by age 21. Based mostly on genetics, most people have good alignment. However, in about 30 percent of adults, the teeth come in so crooked that orthodontics — such as braces — will make a big difference. These cases vary from simple situations where braces for one to two years will fix the problem, to cases requiring jaw surgery.

Our Gulf Coast area offers several orthodontic facilities. Noel Lunsford is field marketing representative for Smile Doctors Braces by DN Orthodontics; Smile Doctors has offices nationwide, including in Gulfport.

Lunsford implied choosing an orthodontist is like choosing your dentist or physician; you become personally attached.

“Our patients are more than just patients, they’re our family,” Lunsford said. As any mom of a child who wears braces knows, this relationship is an ongoing one that in some cases, lasts for years.

Several types of dental issues require orthodontic intervention. Crowding of teeth is the most common, often requiring extractions. Other dental issues include malocclusions, such as overbites and underbites, crossbites, open bites, delayed eruptions and impactions. Crooked teeth may present an ugly appearance and lead to cavities. Many habits can cause issues, such as thumb sucking. If your child is a thumb sucker, consider switching him to pacifiers, which cause less damage and tend to be an easier habit to break.

Braces work best when started early. This is because the bones are softer when we’re young, so straightening can be achieved more easily. If done during adulthood it’s still successful, although the teeth may suffer enamel damage in the process. The best candidates for orthodontics are people with good oral hygiene, few cavities and high motivation. Indeed, motivation is very important, because wearing braces requires daily cleaning and other maintenance, such as headgear, self-tightening procedures and rubber bands.

Once the metal braces are placed on the teeth, the patient must practice devoted hygiene. After the braces are removed, several years of follow up with nighttime-only retainers aid in permanent tooth positioning. Over half of orthodontically-corrected mouths will still have at least some tooth movement within 10 years.

Everyone would like to have a beautiful smile. If you have concerns about your child’s dental alignment, ask your dentist to recommend an orthodontist for a proper evaluation. While orthodontic intervention can be initiated at any age, the teeth manipulate more easily when young. Don’t be afraid of the procedures.

After all, as Ms. Lunsford said, “We love on people first…and straightening teeth, second.”


Philip L. Levin, M.D. is a Coast-based physician and writer. He is the author of numerous award-winning stories and poems, many nonfiction articles, and eight published books, including two children’s books.

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