Medical doctors often choose to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as oncology, neurology, or cardiology, which requires additional training and education. The field of dentistry is similar in that dentists can choose to specialize in certain areas, such as orthodontics, with additional training and education. You wouldn’t see a dentist for an orthodontic problem any more than you’d see a neurologist for a cardiac problem. Here’s the what, who, why, and how about orthodontics.
Orthodontics is a specialty branch of dentistry successfully treating pediatric, teen, adult, and senior patients. While there’s no set age for a child’s first orthodontic appointment, the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) recommends to schedule it once the permanent teeth start erupting, which usually occurs around age seven, to asses for any tooth and jaw irregularities.
In general orthodontics, the objective is to prevent, diagnose, and treat jaw and dental irregularities, such as overcrowding and various bite issues. Some orthodontic offices focus on dentofacial orthopedics, which involves modifying facial growth.
It’s important to remember that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. To practice as a licensed orthodontic professional, the dentist must complete both three additional years of academic study and an orthodontic residency program for clinical experience. Orthodontic specialties are regulated by the AAO, and membership within it means that the orthodontist has specialty training in oral biology and biomechanics.
What Do Orthodontists Treat?
Both dentistry and orthodontics help patients improve their oral health, but your orthodontic treatment is specifically aimed at correcting misalignments of the jaw and/or teeth.
These orthodontic issues extend beyond the aesthetics of your appearance and smile. Misalignment commonly impacts how you chew and eat, how you speak, and even how well you can maintain good oral hygiene to prevent further dental issues like tooth decay and gum disease.
Orthodontic treatment covers an array of issues, including:
• Overcrowding – typically caused by a lack of jawbone space. The erupting adult teeth don’t have space to properly align with existing teeth. There are a number of orthodontic treatments available to successfully realign the teeth for an even smile.
• Anteroposterior deviations – includes underbites, where lower teeth are further forward than upper teeth, and overbites, where upper teeth are further forward than lower teeth. Such deviations often cause speech and chewing issues, but orthodontic treatment can correct the problem.
• Structural issues – malocclusion and bite issues can sometimes affect the aesthetics of your face. Orthodontic treatment helps correct the issue by restructuring and realigning the teeth and jaw.
How Does Orthodontic Treatment Work?
Your orthodontic visit will begin with an assessment to identify problems with the jaw and/or teeth. Expect a few simple tests like panoramic X-rays and bite impressions. Based on the results, your provider will inform you about your treatment options and make a treatment plan recommendation. Your treatment plan may include:
• Dental braces – your teeth are gently trained, or moved, into proper alignment via brackets, archwire, and rubber bands. Today dental braces come in an array of materials, including clear, ceramics, and metal. Depending on your diagnosis, other orthodontic equipment, such as bands, coils, and springs, may accompany the braces.
• Headgear/facemask – these devices work in conjunction to dental braces to help correct overbites, underbites, and crossbites by moving the teeth and jawbone into proper alignment.
• Retainers – these plastic devices resemble the mouth guards used in sports. It may be prescribed after your treatment with braces to ensure your newly realigned teeth do not revert.
Schedule Your Orthodontic Appointment Today
Orthodontics may be an invaluable part of your oral health that’s not being covered by your routine visits to a dentist. If you have questions about common orthodontic problems, diagnosis, or treatment, contact our office today to learn more or schedule your initial consultation with one of our orthodontists.