What is an Orthodontist?


Orthodontics is a specialized branch of dentistry which aims to prevent, diagnose and treat dental and facial/skeletal irregularities. In much the same way as doctors choose to specialize in areas such as cardiology and neurology, dentists can also choose to specialize.  While many orthodontic practices focus on dentofacial orthopedics and general orthodontics for pre-teens and teenagers, orthodontics can successfully treat patients of all ages.

Orthodontists are fully qualified dentists who embark on an additional three years of university-based study and gain extensive clinical experience in an orthodontic residency program.  Selecting an orthodontist who is a member of the Canadian Association of Orthodontists (CAO) or British Columbia Society of Orthodontists (BCSO) will ensure you have chosen an individual with specialty training in oral biology and biomechanics.

What does an orthodontist do?

Orthodontists are experts in correcting misalignments of the teeth and jaws.  There are many debilitating problems associated with misalignment, which include speech defects, difficulties chewing and difficulty maintaining adequate oral hygiene.

Here is a brief overview of some of the most common issues an orthodontist can successfully treat:

Anteroposterior deviations (front to back/horizontal discrepancies) – Common examples of anteroposterior deviations include underbite (the lower teeth are positioned further forward than upper teeth) and overbite (the upper teeth are positioned further forward than the lower teeth).  Both of these deviations can cause difficulty articulating and chewing.

Vertical deviations (up/down discrepancies) – This misalignment of teeth is typically seen as an openbite (where the front teeth do not touch together properly) or a deep bite (where the front teeth overlap excessively and can result in biting of the lower teeth onto the roof of the mouth (palate)). When the front teeth do not come together properly, they do not function as designed to properly cut food.

Overcrowding – Overcrowding is one of the most common problems orthodontists treat.  On occasion, lack of jawbone space means adult teeth cannot erupt in alignment with existing teeth.  The orthodontist is able to realign the teeth using a number of unobtrusive devices and treatments.

Aesthetic issues – In some cases, the appearance of the whole face is negatively impacted by malocclusions or a bad bite.  The orthodontist can reposition the teeth and align the jaws, thereby positively affecting the position of the lips and teeth to create a beautiful, even smile.

How does an orthodontist realign jaws and teeth?

Initially, the orthodontist conducts a thorough examination of the jaws and teeth.  Orthodontic records which include a panoramic x-ray, digital study models (achieved by our digital scanner thereby avoiding taking dental molds), and photos will be taken prior to the orthodontist making a final treatment recommendation.  The orthodontist will recommend the best treatment plan for the patient’s particular condition.

Here is a brief overview of some of the treatments orthodontists may use:

Dental braces – The combination of brackets (which are affixed to each individual tooth), and an archwire (which connects each bracket) are commonly placed to gently move the teeth into proper alignment.  Dental braces can be made of metal, ceramics or clear (“invisible”) materials.

Headgear and facemasks – These devices are generally used to correct a developmental problem within the jaws, such as an overbite or an underbite.  In addition to the dental braces, the orthodontist will design the headgear and/or facemask which fit around the head and attaches to the braces.  This structure will further encourage the teeth and jawbone into alignment.

Retainers – After the orthodontist has aligned the teeth using dental braces, removable appliances or a headgear, a retainer may then be provided to ensure that the teeth do not begin to move back toward their original positions.  Retainers are generally worn until the underlying bone has reformed into the correct position and then as a reminder for the teeth not to move.

If you have any questions about orthodontists and the treatments they provide, please contact our office.



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