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Partial versus Full Orthodontic Treatment

Partial versus Full Orthodontic Treatment


Orthodontic treatment can have life changing benefits. Creating an esthetically pleasing smile, establishing a healthy bite, promoting overall health, and improving one’s self-esteem are only a few examples of such benefits.

A typical orthodontic treatment involves full braces on the upper and lower teeth and can take anywhere from 18-24 months to complete. This is referred as “full treatment”. On the other hand, correction of one specific issue or treatment that requires less work and a shorter time is referred as “partial treatment”.

Because each patient is different it is hard to have a cookie-cutter approach to orthodontic care. Some patients can be treated with simple appliances in a short period of time and others may require advanced care and even jaw surgery to obtain an ideal bite. I often see patients looking to correct one specific orthodontic concern. Whether it is one tooth that is out of alignment, or correction in one jaw, these patients request a partial correction and prefer not to have comprehensive treatment. Unfortunately, partial orthodontic treatment is not as simple as it sounds. The ultimate goal of any orthodontic treatment is to create a proper bite and ensure that all the teeth are placed in an ideal pre-defined position. For that reason, correcting a simple tooth that is out of alignment may actually require more treatment that it seems. To explain this in common terms, it is as if a car’s engine needs replacement and the owner instead is requesting to repaint it to give it a brand new look. No matter how pretty the car looks on the surface, it is eventually going to break down if the true cause of the problem is not corrected, in this case a bad engine.

Some patients find it difficult to comprehend why a full course of braces is needed to correct the crowding of a few teeth. But just as the analogy I made earlier about the car, in some cases simply correcting the crowding of the front teeth is not addressing the underlying orthodontic problem and is only providing a temporary partial correction. Eventually full treatment will be needed to ensure the bite is correct and the teeth fit properly.


Dr. Salmassian is a Board Certified Orthodontist and specializes in orthodontics for children and adults.  For any questions regarding this article or to schedule your complimentary evaluation please contact Salmassian Orthodontics at 661-222-7444.

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