Who is an orthodontist?
Most people have a problem differentiating between an orthodontist and a dentist. The difference between the two is rather straightforward. Whereas a dentist is a medical practitioner whose scope of work encompasses a vast range of teeth related problems, an orthodontist specializes in only one aspect of the teeth.
An orthodontist mainly deals with issues related to the alignment of the teeth in the upper jaw in relation to those in the lower one. The misalignment of the teeth is a medical condition known as malocclusion and it results in an improper bite. Malocclusion can be a precursor to other dental problems such as protruding teeth, grinding of teeth, overbite, underbite, cross bite and many others. Thus simply put, an orthodontist is a specialist in just one branch of dentistry.
Reasons to consult an orthodontist
By simply closing your mouth tightly enough so that the teeth in your upper and lower jaws touch, you can immediately determine whether you have a malocclusion problem. You should be able to tell which teeth are aligned and those that aren’t by using your tongue. A mismatch of the top of the teeth and outright gaps between others are an almost sure sign of an improper bite or malocclusion. However, there is little you can do by yourself to correct a problem involving improper teeth bite. This is why you should consult an orthodontist if your teeth provide a discomfort when your jaws are shut.
An orthodontist will be able to address the following problems:
- Carry out the gradual alignment of the top of the teeth ensuring teeth in both jaws match perfectly when you close your jaws
- Carry out the straightening of crooked teeth by gradually repositioning them until they align with those in the opposite jaw
- Initiate the closing up of gaps between the teeth by gradually repositioning teeth associated with the gap
- Help improve speech by correcting gaps, crooked teeth and misaligned teeth that might impede proper pronunciation
- Help lower the teeth wear and related trauma due to long-term malocclusion
- Increase the aesthetic appeal of the teeth by facilitating perfect teeth alignment thus resulting in a perfect smile
- Improve the health of teeth, gum and jaws as a direct consequence of teeth alignment
Devices used in orthodontics
As noted above, correcting problems involved with teeth alignment is a gradual process. This is because correcting malocclusion involves the repositioning of individual teeth within the jaws and gums, a process that can only occur in several steps. This is why orthodontists make use of devices to help apply the continuous necessary corrective forces needed to reposition teeth within the jaw and gum. These devices can be removed once the task of alignment is complete or can remain in-place to prevent the reoccurrence of the original condition. The devices used by orthodontists include:
Dental braces or train track braces are probably the most well known orthodontic device. They are composed of three parts namely, bands, brackets and wire. The band is wrapped around the individual tooth to be repositioned. The band is in turn connected to a bracket to which the wire is attached. The wire joins successive teeth in the jaw, typically from one end of the jaw to the other. Tension is gradually applied to the wire by tightening it. This tension in the wire provides the constant corrective force that is necessary to reposition the teeth.
Once the teeth have attained the correct positions in the jaws and gums, the braces are then removed. The alignment of teeth using braces takes several months as it is very gradual. The procedure involves monthly visits to the orthodontist to gradually tighten the braces.
There are various types of braces the orthodontists at Angel Orthodontics offer depending on the patient’s conditions and needs.
As the name implies, space maintainers help to keep teeth next to a space in the jaw line from moving into the space. These spaces are usually from teeth that have fallen out. Thus the procedure using this device is carried out on children with rapidly growing teeth. Space maintainers can be either removable or fixed.
Dental aligners basically carry out the same function as braces. However unlike braces which are used with teens and young adults, aligners are preferred by adults. This is because aligners are less conspicuous than braces and can be removed while brushing the teeth, while flossing and even while eating.
These devices are used to prevent teeth that have been aligned by an orthodontist from moving back to their initial positions. Retainers are typically fixed permanently by gluing them to the back of teeth. Notably, these orthodontic devices are mainly used on teeth in the lower jaw as opposed to those in the upper one. This is because teeth in the lower jaw exhibit a greater tendency to revert to their initial position in the jaw and gum.
Other orthodontic devices include the headgear that is at times used with braces, palatal expenders, lip/check bumpers and so many others which you can find out more about on our Angel Orthodontics Blog or by talking to us directly in our London dental practice opposite Angel Station.