What Is Orthodontic Dentistry?

Tiffany Manley

Orthodontic dentistry is a special type of dentistry that involves malocclusion treatment. Malocclusions are improper bites and might be caused by improper jaw growth or crooked teeth. While many people think of orthodontic dentistry as simply correcting misaligned teeth, some orthodontic dentists focus more on the proper reconstruction of an individual’s face by correcting things such as overbites, underbites or other problems with jaw alignment and growth. The amount of training and specialized schooling varies among localities.

One apect of orthodontic dentistry is using braces to properly align teeth.
One apect of orthodontic dentistry is using braces to properly align teeth.

Correcting alignment of teeth by using braces is one component of orthodontic dentistry. For some time, metal wires and stainless steel brackets were the most common way that orthodontists accomplished this. An orthodontist adjusts the wires over a period of time, forcing the teeth to move into correct positioning. A newer way of correcting tooth alignment involves clear, removable trays that are worn over the top and bottom teeth and can be switched out over a period of time to straighten the teeth.

Orthodontists may use retainers to correct improper bites.
Orthodontists may use retainers to correct improper bites.

Other appliances are also used in orthodontic dentistry, such as headgear, expansion devices, space maintainers and retainers. Headgear might be used to aid in the straightening of teeth or correcting a bite. Expansion devices might be used to expand a jaw or other spaces within the mouth if there is too little space for the teeth to sit comfortably. Permanent space maintainers prevent teeth from falling into a permanent space in the row of teeth, and a temporary maintainer keeps a space open to allow another tooth to grow into it. Retainers generally are used to retain the shape and alignment of teeth that have been corrected by the orthodontist.

In order to determine what course of action the orthodontist needs to take to correct an individual’s condition, he or she must conduct a diagnosis and treatment plan. This involves different things for different individuals but might include taking a mold of the individuals mouth, teeth and jaws; taking bite imprints; and determining the exact type of treatment needed, its duration and the cost. Obtaining a treatment plan is a good way to determine the length of time and cost needed to correct any problems, but if the condition is not treated within a reasonable amount of time, a new treatment plan should be completed.

To practice in the field of orthodontic dentistry, an individual usually completes an extensive training program. This might involve completing college college and additional specialized training in the orthodontics field. He or she might also be required to complete a certification exam at the end of training.

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