Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that treats malocclusion, a condition in which the teeth are not correctly positioned when the mouth is closed. This results in an improper bite.
An orthodontist specializes in making the teeth straight.
Treatment can be cosmetic, to improve a person’s appearance, but it often aims to improve oral function, too.
Types of treatment
An orthodontist can carry out work that aims to achieve the following:
- closing wide gaps between the teeth
- aligning the tips of the teeth
- straightening crooked teeth
- improving speech or chewing ability
- boosting the long-term health of gums and teeth
- preventing long-term excessive wear or trauma of the teeth
- treating an improper bite
Treatment can improve the appearance of the teeth, but it can also lead to better chewing and speech function and help protect teeth from damage or decay, in some cases.
To achieve these goals, the orthodontist uses a range of medical dental devices, including headgear, plates, and braces.
Orthodontic devices can be fixed or removable.
Who should see an orthodontist?
If the jaws and teeth do not develop properly, malocclusion can result. The teeth will be crooked and misaligned, and the bottom and top sets of teeth may not line up.
Malocclusion is not a disease and it does not affect physical health. It is a variation in the position of teeth. However, it may impact the shape of the face and the appearance of the teeth, resulting in embarrassment, a lack of self-confidence, and even depression.
Reasons include injury to the teeth or facial bones and frequent thumb or finger sucking, among others.
Severe malocclusion may affect eating, speech, and keeping the teeth clean.
Orthodontic treatment can help treat or improve the following:
Protruding front teeth: Treatment can improve the appearance and protects the teeth from damage during sports injuries or falls.
Crowding: In a narrow jaw, there may not be enough space for all the teeth. The orthodontist may remove one or more teeth to make room for the others.
Impacted teeth: This can happen when adult tooth does not emerge from the gum or bone, or only emerges partially.
Asymmetrical teeth: The upper and lower teeth do not match, especially when the mouth is closed but the teeth are showing.
Deep bite, or overbite: When the teeth are clenched, the upper ones come down too far over the lower ones.
Reverse bite: When the teeth are clenched, the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones.
Open bite: When the teeth are clenched, there is an opening between the upper and lower teeth.
Underbite: The upper teeth are too far back, or the lower teeth are too far forward.
Crossbite: At least one of the upper teeth does not come down slightly in front of the lower teeth when the teeth are clenched. They are too near the cheek or the tongue.
Spacing: There are gaps or spaces between the teeth, either because a tooth is missing, or the teeth do not fill-up the mouth. This is the opposite of crowding.
An orthodontist can also help solve problems such as the grinding or clenching of teeth and clicking or moving of the jaw.
Thumb or finger sucking can