An orthodontist is a dental specialist that has not only completed a 5 year undergraduate Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree, but has also completed an additional 3 year postgraduate Doctor of Clinical Dentistry (DClinDent) degree in orthodontics. After receiving the additional years of training and education, an orthodontist has learned the skills that are required to treat the misalignment of teeth and facial development with metal braces, ceramic braces, invisalign, retainers, headgear and other methods.
Orthodontists are primarily focused on correcting malocclusions (which means a bad bite) where the teeth are irregular, twisted, crowded, too open, missing or don’t meet. Sometimes this can involve displacement of the jaw, where the jaw is being pushed out of alignment.
Problems orthodontists can help with include:
Protruding teeth – the upper teeth may be out of alignment from lower teeth which can damage the palate
Crowding – there may be too many teeth growing in too small a space
Missing teeth – this leaves large spaces between teeth
Bite problems where teeth are twisted or do not meet, such as under-bite, deep- bite, open-bite or cross-bite which can look unattractive, damage the teeth and even cause speech problems
Damage to teeth caused by longstanding thumb sucking
Other issues that may require orthodontic treatment are:
Damage caused by facial accidents
Grinding or clenching of teeth
Problems in chewing or biting food
When baby or permanent teeth are lost prematurely
Appliances orthodontists use:
Primarily orthodontists will work with braces, plates, retainers and other dental equipment to straighten and correct teeth and jaw problems
An initial visit will involve the orthodontists examining the mouth, taking x-rays and diagnosing any problems and writing a treatment plan
Orthodontists may also take a mould of the teeth to help work out how to best correct problems as well as have a plate made
In some cases treatment may require tooth removal to allow enough space for tooth alignment. Work normally begins when children are around 10 – 14 (and sometimes earlier) and usually last over a six month to 24 month period, depending on the complexity of the problem and how well your child responds to treatment. If problems are more severe, night headgear or even jaw surgery may be required. Regular checkups will be needed throughout treatment to tighten braces and ensure treatment is progressing as desired. After treatment plastic retainers and/or a fixed wire will be made to retain the aligned teeth in place.
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Avoid allowing your child to become a thumb sucker – on a long term basis this can distort the upper teeth, cause a gap in the bite between upper and lower teeth and even push the lower front teeth backward.
Discourage nail biting and chewing on pencils as these habits can also move teeth out of place.
Ensure your child keeps up with their regular dental visits.
If you are concerned about your child’s teeth, bite or they have problems with chewing, book in to see a dentist or orthodontist early – some practioners suggest around age 8 so problems can be spotted quickly.