In the same way that doctors can specialize in areas like neurology and cardiology, dentists can also choose to specialize. Orthodontics is a specialty in dentistry that aims at preventing, diagnosing and treating dental and facial irregularities. A lot of orthodontic practices are usually limited to dentofacial orthopedics as well as general orthodontics, but patients of any age can be successfully treated.
All orthodontists are dentists, but for a dentist to become a orthodontist, he or she has to study a further two to three years of advanced specialty education after dental school and gain extensive clinical experience in an orthodontic residency program.
The advanced specialty program includes advanced education in biomedical, basic and behavioral sciences. The students also learn the complex skills required in managing tooth movement (orthodontics) and guiding facial development (dentofacial orthopedics). Therefore, only dentists who have successfully studied and completed this program can be called orthodontists.
What does an orthodontist do?
An orthodontist specializes in correcting misalignments of the teeth and jaws. There are many problems associated with misalignments such as difficulties in maintaining oral hygiene, chewing as well as speech defects. Examples of the most common issues that can be treated successfully by an orthodontist include:
This is one of the most common problems that orthodontists deal with. This is usually caused by lack of jaw bone space which results to adult teeth failing to align with the existing teeth. Orthodontists can be able to solve this using several unobtrusive devices and treatments.
• Anteroposterior deviations
The most common examples here include overbite where the upper teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth and the vice versa known as the underbite. Both of these deviations usually result in difficulties in chewing and articulating.
• Aesthetic issues
In some cases, the above problems end up impacting the shape of the whole face negatively. Orthodontists can, however, restructure and realign the teeth, jaw, and lips, to create a beautiful, even smile.
What are the treatment methods used by orthodontists?
Treatment usually starts with a thorough examination of the jaw and teeth. Before making a treatment recommendation, the orthodontists use panoramic x-rays and study model, that is bite impressions. The recommended treatment will then depend on the patient’s particular condition.
Some of the common treatment options that orthodontists use include:
This is a combination of brackets that are fixed to each single teeth and an archwire which is used to connect each bracket. They are usually placed to train the teeth gently into proper alignment. The materials used to make braces include metal, ceramics or clear materials (“invisible”).
• Headgear and facemasks
In addition to braces, a headgear and facemask will be designed to fit around the head and is attached to the braces. These devices further help the teeth and jawbone into alignment.
These are used after the use of braces or headgears to ensure that the teeth do not start to move back to their previous positions. They are worn until the underlying bone moves to the correct position.