What Is Orthodontics?

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Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry focused on the health of your teeth and jaws. It also includes treatments for abnormalities in your bite, such as an overbite or underbite. These problems can affect the way you chew, speak and clean your teeth.

Licensed orthodontists are dentists first and then go through specialized training to become specialists in orthodontics. They also have extensive hands-on experience to diagnose and treat patients.

Malocclusion is the term orthodontists use to describe abnormalities in the teeth and jaws. It can be caused by many factors, such as genetics, early loss of primary teeth, damaging oral habits and problems in the jaw bone development during childhood.

Treatment for malocclusions typically involves the use of dental braces and other appliances. These are designed to slowly adjust tooth position and jaw alignment, resulting in a more healthy bite.

Braces are the most popular form of treatment, but there are other options available for those with more severe problems or complex orthodontic needs. Other types of orthodontic appliances include clear aligners, expanders and headgear.

Traditional metal braces comprise metal brackets that are bonded to the front of your teeth and archwires that are threaded through slots in the brackets. The wires apply pressure to the teeth, which moves them gradually into the desired position.

The length of treatment depends on the problem, but most people can be treated in one to two years. After treatment, your orthodontist may recommend retainers to keep your new smile in place for a while.