You may have heard of orthodontics, but if you are like many people, you may know little about orthodontists and what we do. Here is a bit of information to help you better understand the role of an orthodontist and what we do!
What Is an Orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dental professional who specializes in the correction of misaligned jaws and teeth. The full name of our specialty is “Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics,” and helps describe that we not only focus on how the teeth fit together but also evaluate how your teeth, jaws and facial balance all fit together in harmony! Although orthodontists and dentists both treat the teeth, the services provided by a general dentist are usually broader. A dentist offers restorative and preventive care to promote the health of the teeth and gums. An orthodontist focuses more specifically on the dental alignment and fit of the teeth.
All dentists must successfully complete dental school. However, an orthodontist must have additional education and training. All orthodontists are dentists first and then complete an additional 2-3 year post-doctorate residency program beyond dental school. The specialized training consists of thousands of hours focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and correcting growth and bite problems. While a general dentist can provide all the services an orthodontist can provide, aligning teeth is the service we provide every day.
Image from: American Association of Orthodontists
Why is an Orthodontist the most qualified to provide orthodontic care?
We know that orthodontic care is a big decision and that people have many different options when selecting care from DIY mail order aligners to Board Certified Orthodontists. While all options have advantages and everyone’s situation are different, Orthodontists are incredible experts at moving teeth and knowing how people change and grow as they get older. And we are able to do this very predictably and with the help of technology we are incredibly efficient.
An orthodontist commits an incredible amount of time, energy, and resources to be able to provide excellent care and because of our expertise and experience of aligning teeth every day we are able to diagnose and correct problems with ease.
To achieve best results, your orthodontist and dentist will work closely together to ensure your teeth stay healthy during your care. This gives you the best chance to have a BEAUTIFUL and HEALTHY SMILE!
What Does an Orthodontist Do?
An orthodontist helps correct the positioning of teeth and jaws that are out of proper alignment, appear crooked, or impair the bite. But the proper diagnosis of a problem is the most important part of our job! Here are a few issues that an orthodontist can treat:
Crowding is a relatively common alignment issue. It often occurs when there is too little room in the oral cavity to accommodate the number/size of teeth that you have.
An orthodontist can create space by moving teeth, reshaping teeth or even removing teeth if needed in severe cases. The correction of crowded teeth is important because they are more difficult to clean. Poor cleaning can lead to more cavities or bone loss!
Anteroposterior Bite Problems
Anteroposterior bite problems occur when the upper or lower teeth are positioned behind or in front of the matching teeth of the opposing arch. When the lower teeth are located behind the upper teeth, the condition is considered excess overjet. Likewise, when the upper teeth are behind the lower teeth, an underbite is present.
Irregularly Spaced or Aligned Teeth
Even though the teeth may not be crowded, they may still be misaligned. Teeth that are irregularly spaced may be aligned to improve their aesthetic appeal. The treatment can make the teeth appear more uniform. Much of the final smile design will also incorporate some esthetic reshaping of the teeth to help establish a more appealing and uniform shape to the teeth and smile!
What Types of Applications Do Orthodontists Use to Properly Align the Jaws and Teeth?
Before beginning an orthodontic treatment, we assess the health of your teeth and jaws and how they are functioning together. X-rays, photographs, and digital models may be obtained to help diagnosis and plan your best treatment. Based on our findings and your desires, we will suggest several types of treatment options. Here are a few available options:
Braces use brackets, an archwire, and elastic ligatures to straighten the teeth. The brackets are bonded to the teeth, and the archwire is attached to the brackets using the elastic bands. As the archwire is adjusted, aligning force is applied to the teeth, moving them into their proper position. The wires are changed or adjusted at your appointments, which helps ensure your teeth continue to straighten.
Braces may be made of multiple materials, such as titanium, gold, and ceramic. In addition, the brackets may be applied to the front of the teeth or in the case of lingual braces, to the side of the teeth that is next to the tongue. Lingual braces are much more esthetic but tend to take longer to get used to.
Plastic aligners may also be used to straighten the teeth. The aligners are thermoplastic trays that are created from a digital scan of your mouth. Multiple sets of aligners are used in a specified order to ensure that the teeth are progressively aligned over time. Aligners are nice because they are removable and very esthetic. Invisalign is the most popular type of aligner system that is currently available but there are many other companies that are developing similar products.
Rapid Palatal Expanders (AKA RPE or Expanders)
RPE’s are called many different things but all are designed to accomplish the same goal. The upper jaw is actually formed from two separate bones and the Expander is designed to move these two bones apart before they grow into one bone. This allows us to develop a larger upper jaw when your lower jaw is smaller than your upper jaw.
After the teeth have been properly aligned, we will review all the different type of retainers and pick the best one for you! A retainer may be used to prevent the teeth from returning to their former positions.
For more information about orthodontists and the services that we offer, contact our office to schedule an appointment!