Park Smile Blog

Orthodontic Records: What They Are and What to Expect

Making the decision to visit an orthodontist is a smart move. An orthodontist is expertly trained in the area of straightening teeth and, by making the choice to undergo treatment, you will reap multiple benefits. From having a beautiful, straight smile to helping to avoid jaw, chewing and even speech problems, orthodontic treatment can leave you both looking and feeling amazing. But what most people are not aware of is that all orthodontic treatment starts with a records process.

Taking Records

When you first meet with an orthodontist, you may not know whether you need treatment. If the orthodontist believes you may benefit from treatment, the diagnostic records may be taken at that time, or you may be given a separate appointment for taking the records. The mission of an orthodontist is to bring the teeth, lips and jaw into proper alignment, making the gathering of current patient records a key component of the process.

Once it is determined that you could benefit from treatment, the next step is for orthodontic records to be created. Just like a home builder begins with blueprints, an orthodontist needs blueprints, or records, of your teeth, jaw, face and underlying structures. With those in hand, your doctor is then able to determine an effective treatment plan to help you achieve the results that you want and need.

So, just how are orthodontic records taken? It’s actually much easier than you may think. During your records appointment, a series of measurements will be taken, so that the orthodontist has the information needed to devise the right custom plan for you. Some of the records that you can expect to be taken include: 

  • Impressions.  There will be dental impressions, or molds, taken of your teeth at your records appointment. From this, plaster or digital replicas will be made. These dental impressions, as they are referred to, are made by having a gel-like material placed over the teeth and allowing it to set. These molds of your teeth play an important role in helping the orthodontist to evaluate the current positioning of your teeth, as well as predict their future placement following treatment. The molds are kept with your patient file and are also used as a permanent record.
  • Radiographs. At your records appointment, you can expect to have a series of radiographs (x-rays) taken. These x-rays include a panoramic view, or pano, which will provide a look at both the top and bottom teeth together on one film. This is especially important for children and adolescents because they will show developing teeth that are not yet visible, giving the orthodontist the ability to predict where they will erupt. It is also important for adults because it will show the current jaw and bone health, and whether there are any missing or impacted teeth. Additional x-rays taken may include the lateral cephalometric radiograph, or ceph, which plays an important role in helping the orthodontist to determine current jaw growth, bone structure and how it may change throughout treatment. The ceph x-ray is one that will capture the side profile of a patient, from their chin to the top of their head, providing information about bone, teeth, soft tissue and jaw alignment. This radiograph is somewhat unique to orthodontic specialists and there is a good chance this will be your first lateral cephalometric radiograph, as general dentists do not routinely take these x-rays.
  • Photographs. Photos will be taken of the inside and outside of your mouth. The intraoral, which are inside the mouth, and the extraoral, which are outside of the mouth, will provide additional information to the orthodontist about your current profile. They will also become part of your permanent patient record and they are fun to review before and after results when your new smile is finished.

During your records appointment, you should feel comfortable enough to ask any questions that you may have. You will spend approximately 60 minutes with both a treatment coordinator and an orthodontic assistant during your records appointment. Whether you take a list of questions with you that you would like to have answered, or you think of them on the spot, the records appointment is a great time to get them all addressed.

Devising a Plan

All of the diagnostic records taken during your appointment are instrumental in helping the orthodontist devise the most effective treatment plan possible. They are the blueprints, or study aides, that will be used to determine everything from your current jaw and teeth position, to which course of treatment will provide the best route to achieving a healthy, beautiful and straight smile. The more tools the orthodontist has for learning about your current situation, the more effective a treatment plan they can then devise. Think of the time that you put into your records appointment as a crucial stop along the way to an amazing smile. Like any wonderful journey, it helps to have a detailed map, so that you know where you are going and the best way to get there! 

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