Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that deals with the study and treatment of malocclusions. Malocclusions (improper bites) can result from irregularity of the teeth, a disparity of upper and lower jaws or a combination of both. The aim of orthodontics is to prevent and correct functional and aesthetic aspects of dental bites.
What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics can be done in both general dentistry offices as well as specialist orthodontists’ offices; the difference is the treating doctor: all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. Orthodontists are specialized dentists who focus their practices towards providing orthodontics to their patients. Orthodontists are true specialists as a result of two or three academic years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program, and so are more knowledgeable and experienced at straightening teeth and aligning jaws to create optimal function and form.
Although some general dentists utilize orthodontics, orthodontists receive a more formal education in orthodontics. Therefore, in order to obtain specialized orthodontics, patients need to look for an orthodontist’s office instead of a general practice. Many countries have associations of specialists that provide lists of qualified doctors who practice specialized orthodontics (for example the AAO: American Association of Orthodontists or the WFO: World Federation of Orthodontists) and this can be the best resource for patients to find a quality doctor.
Orthodontists have knowledge, and use, the full range of orthodontic appliances and technologies available in modern oral care. Orthodontics as a specialty has been around since the early 1900’s, but there is evidence from ancient times, like the Etruscans or the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, that people desired straight teeth back then too! In olden times, catgut, gold wires or even finger pressure qualified as orthodontics. Further breakthroughs happened throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, until Dr. Edward H. Angle, a dentist from Herrick, Pennsylvania, USA, founded the Angle School of Orthodontia in St. Louis Missouri, USA in the year 1900. From there, contemporary orthodontics has followed meticulous guidelines to correct malocclusions. While early orthodontists used bulky painful appliances, orthodontics today utilize a wide range of option to provide the best care for all types of patients seeking to improve their teeth. Some of these include traditional metal braces, clear braces, braces that are glued to the back of teeth, or even removable appliances and temporary implants!
A Good Candidate for Orthodontics
As a result in modern orthodontic breakthroughs, most people seeking to improve their dental appearances are now candidates for orthodontic treatment. A qualified orthodontist is able to determine if a patient’s best choice for aligning their teeth are metal braces, head appliances, removable clear or acrylic aligners, or different combinations of these. Reliable offices will use panoramic and head x-ray films to determine proper treatment suggestions. Age, gender, ethnicity, or levels of activity are not limitations for patients searching for improvements. Only patients with compromised health levels may not be candidates for orthodontics.
Depending on the severity of the malocclusion, the patient’s general (and dental) heath, and the type of appliances implemented, orthodontic treatment can vary from 4 months to 30 months of total treatment time.
The adjustment period, just like with other appliances (even with things like shoes), varies but plenty of patients take about 1 week to fully accustom to them.
Patients will be able to eat and go about their normal lives within minutes of placement of their orthodontic appliances.
The complete result should be visible until orthodontic treatment is completely finished, but within the first weeks the first results will start to become apparent. It is important to note that after all orthodontic treatments, retainers (discrete holding appliances that can be either fixed or removable) will have to be worn.
Risks and Side Effects of Orthodontics
It should be noted that while people associate orthodontics with pain, the reality is more soreness than actual dental pain. Over-the-counter pain medication is usually more than enough to relieve this situation.
There can be some risks and side effects associated with orthodontic treatments. Once again, depending on the types of appliances chosen, they can include: excessive salivation, improper oral hygiene (with possible bad breath), enamel decalcification (white spots), increased risk of caries or risk of oral trauma. Almost all will be avoided with routine dental evaluations and proper oral hygiene. And no, if there were a huge magnet in the sky, people with metal in their mouths would not be sent flying!
Cost of Orthodontics
The cost of orthodontics treatments will vary a lot depending on regions, but can go from a couple hundred dollars for simple corrections, to three, four, five thousand USD or more for full, all-inclusive, orthodontic treatments. As a general recommendation, patients should always consult with a qualified orthodontist before any type of orthodontic treatment is started, especially since orthodontists will offer very-low cost consultations, some even free! Most offices offer monthly financing options and discounts for treatment, making orthodontics by orthodontists more affordable than ever!
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.