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How orthodontic treatment works

January 11, 2013By: Dr. Jones

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Orthodontic treatment relies on an amazing interaction between modern technology and human biology.  Teeth are surrounded by bone, which is adaptable.  When appropriate forces are placed onto teeth, using brackets, wires, aligners, and other orthodontic appliances, the forces are transmitted to the surrounding bone.  This bone, if healthy, adapts and remodels, allowing the teeth to move.  Orthodontists know how, when, and where to apply these forces in order to move the teeth in a healthy fashion.  Usually it takes approximately a month for the bone around the teeth to adapt to the new position, which is when additional tooth movement can occur.

Orthodontics can also influence the shape of the upper and lower jaws, depending on the age of the patient and the shape of their jaws.  The upper jaw is more adaptable than the lower jaw, and it can be made wider or brought down and forward.  The upper jaw can also be held back if it is growing too far forward.  In order to do this, orthodontists use appliances such as expanders or headgear.  The lower jaw can be influenced slightly, but not as much as the upper jaw.

Scientists and orthodontists are constantly researching innovative ways to move the teeth faster, more comfortably, and more predictably for patients of all ages and new discoveries in biology in the future may allow for even more ability to affect tooth movement and jaw growth.