When taking their children to get braces, most people will refer to their dental specialist as “the dentist”. Although this is not 100 percent incorrect, there is a far better word to describe the dentist that specialises in braces - an orthodontist.
The terms “orthodontist” and “dentist” are often used interchangeably. Although these two dental specialties have similarities, orthodontia is a specific type of dentistry. An orthodontist is a specially trained dental expert who focuses on the development, prevention and correction of teeth and jaw irregularities.
Unlike general dentists, they have an additional three years of full-time university education and have acquired a General Dental Degree and Specialist Orthodontic Degree.
To find out what orthodontists do exactly, read on and learn a bit more about orthodontia and specialists who practice it.
Generally speaking, orthodontists’ part of the “dentist” role is to make sure you have a perfect smile, by helping you straighten crooked teeth, fixing overbites and aligning the jaws correctly.
In simplest terms, all orthodontists may be dentists, but few dentists specialize in orthodontia. Orthodontists are primarily known for straightening teeth and diagnosing misaligned bite, but they can help with other conditions such as thumb sucking and some forms of sleep apnoea. Apart from diagnosing overbites, occlusions, misaligned teeth and jaws, facial abnormalities and overcrowded teeth, orthodontists are repairing these issues by making and applying corrective braces.
The first and the most important job of an orthodontist is to identify the issues you are having with the position and alignment of your teeth. One of such issues is called diastema - a gap between teeth, which grows larger over time. In the case of diagnosed diastema, the orthodontist will correct the issue by pulling the teeth closer. A more frequent issue they can help with is crowding of teeth, an equally unpleasant condition. In that case, they will recommend the most suitable method for crowded teeth.
Braces are the most popular method for fixing various issues and give you a beautiful smile. Although the process of teeth straightening is not immediate, it is extremely effective and this is the main reason of its popularity with both orthodontists and patients. There are several different types of braces, of which traditional metal braces are still the most popular ones due to their affordable price. In all braces variations, the brackets are attached to the teeth and connected to each other with wires. They are pulling teeth into an upright alignment making them straight and beautiful.
If braces are not the suitable option, an orthodontist will recommend an aligner. The best-known aligner today is Invisalign. It consists of a series of customized plastic tray aligners which are removable and frequently replaced. This appliance is almost invisible as there are no metal parts such as brackets and wires. Patients especially like them because they are removable. They are getting quite popular as they are able to fix a wide variety of issues - from overbite, underbite, crossbite and crowded teeth to open bite and a gap in the teeth.
In extreme cases when braces do not work, orthodontists might recommend a palate expander or headgear. Palate expanders work by widening the arch of the upper jaw and allowing teeth to have more space, whereas headgear are typically used to correct excessive horizontal overbites. When there is very small or no extra space in the jaw at all (e.g. when wisdom teeth start growing) an orthodontist will likely recommend an extraction of the excess teeth. Regardless of the method they choose, they are the ones who are customising the braces and expanders for you, making sure they fit your teeth perfectly.
If you are a parent and wonder whether your child needs a treatment, know that children should see an orthodontist by the age of 7. By this age, an expert can spot the early issues with jaw and emerging teeth and start the treatment as soon as possible. Later treatments (when teeth stop growing) last longer, they are more expensive and certainly less effective. This doesn’t mean that you should give up on healthy and beautiful smile if you are an adult who needs treatment - later is better than never.
Often a dentist would refer patients to an orthodontist. If you are wondering whether you need orthodontist’s help, make an appointment with your dentist and ask for an advice.
If you are located in the Gold Coast and Brisbane vicinity, call MGA Dental. We offer both general dental services and orthodontist treatments and our experts will give you free advice.