Effectiveness of Braces
June 17, 2009 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find information on orthodontia effectiveness and outcomes?

A few years ago, I read an article, which I haven't been able to find again, which suggested that the success rate for orthodontia, as far as long-term bite improvement and prevention of tooth problems, is very low. In my own case, my orthodontia not only came "undone" to the extent that my dentist still periodically comments that it is "too bad" I never had braces (I did! For three years!), but when I recently consulted an oral surgeon about some bite and pain problems, he suggested that my orthodontic work may actually have caused or contributed to my problems.

Well, my oldest son is 8, and I notice that kids not much older than him have braces these days. So I figure it's time for me to start thinking about whether, and under what circumstances, I am going to pursue orthodontia for my kids.

Can you point me to any resources that talk about the success rate, whether orthodontia effectively prevents the problems it's supposed to prevent, any problems that are created or exacerbated by it, and so on? I want to make an informed decision for my kids. I'm more interested in being pointed to information than to anecdotes, even though the root of my questioning the nation-wide hegemony of orthodontists is my own anecdotal experience.
posted by not that girl to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD, but I think your query is almost too broad - to find any reliable literature, you will probably need to focus on the effectiveness of orthodontic treatment for a specific diagnosis. To make a really simplistic example, braces may be very effective for fixing crooked teeth, less so for an overbite, etc.

That said, one place to start looking for literature would be the orthodontics journals on PubMed.
posted by dicaxpuella at 12:37 PM on June 17, 2009

The greatest variable for the success or failure of orthodonture is patient compliance. imagine if the success rate for your chosen field depended largely on how well someone else's teenagers did what you told them to do.
Make sure your children are regularly seen by a general dentist and are free of cavities and have good hygiene.
See several orthodontists as there are a variety of philosophies relating to early intervention, pulling v not pulling teeth, and whether or not a good result can be achieved without surgery.
motivate your kids to follow instructions, keep things clean and plan on long term retention.
IAAD, and I see far more excellent results than failures because we go over these factors before referring pts. out to our colleagues, and we intervene aggressively if we see poor compliance.
All that being said, bodies grow and change and teeth shift over a lifetime, so there are no guarantees, only ways to set things up for success.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:34 PM on June 17, 2009

On second reading, the answer to your question might better be:
Yes, straight teeth, that are in an ideal relationship, will, if taken care of properly, have a better chance of avoiding many problems that patients with malocclusions, crowded/rotated/tilted teeth can experience over a lifetime. the straightest teeth will still decay if poorly maintained, and the gnarliest mouths can function adequately with few problems if maintained correctly.
Your decision might best be made after you know, from an orthodontist (or general dentist), whether you are dealing with a potentially destructive malocclusion, or just a less-than-aesthetically-ideal set of teeth.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:44 PM on June 17, 2009

Sorry I don't have an answer to this, I'm mostly chiming in to say I've always wondered the same thing and I wish more folks had answered.

As a personal data point, I had orthodonture that most certainly repositioned my teeth and reshaped my face, and the reshaping has lasted about 20 years now. My orthodontic work included having several permanent teeth pulled, so perhaps without that my teeth would have returned to their original order. On the other hand, I've always thought that all but the most extremely mis-aligned teeth are perfectly able to chew food, and that orthodonture is purely cosmetic in most cases.
posted by serazin at 12:51 AM on June 18, 2009

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