When most of us think of an orthodontist, the first thing that comes to mind is probably braces. But what does an orthodontist do really? And how are they different from a dentist?
Orthodontists can play a big role in not only the appearance of your smile but also overall oral health. The decision to undergo orthodontic treatment for you or your child is a big one that should be made on an informed basis. Equally important is when to actually begin orthodontic treatment.
By understanding more about what an orthodontist does, you can be more engaged with your and your child’s smile and orthodontic care journey.
What an Orthodontist Does
Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry focused on straightening crooked teeth and improving jaw alignment. An orthodontist is basically able to start with patients who have very crooked teeth and help them end up with nice and bright smiles. In addition to correcting existing problems, orthodontists are trained to identify issues and correct them during development.
Not everyone is born with perfectly straight teeth or an aligned jaw. Not only can issues like crooked teeth or an overbite have a negative effect on appearance and self-esteem, but they can also lead to other oral health problems. Crooked teeth or a misaligned jaw can increase the risk of tooth decay, or tooth infections, especially by making it more difficult to brush properly. Alignment problems in the mouth can also potentially be associated with teeth grinding and jaw disorders that can cause pain and wear on the teeth.
Common problems an orthodontist can diagnose and treat include:
- Tooth crowding
- Tooth spacing
- Tooth protrusions
- Underbite, where the lower jaw is in front of the upper jaw
- Overbite, where the upper jaw is in front of the lower jaw
- Crossbite, where a developmental problem causes the jaw to move to one side or the other when closing.
Treating these and other problems is usually accomplished through a combination of orthodontic appliances. This includes braces, headgear to improve bite quality and jaw alignment, and retainers to help consolidate and protect alignment.
When to Start Orthodontic Treatment and Understanding Treatment Options
Most orthodontic cases are adult or adolescent, with starting ages generally being between 10 and 13. There are some limited cases where a younger patient may require early intervention. In other situations, early treatment can make some problems easier to correct.
Our expert orthodontists recommend starting the process with an initial evaluation as soon as possible to make an assessment for whether orthodontic care is needed. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends a first orthodontist visit around the age of seven for most children.
At AC Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, our mission is to make the orthodontic process as pain-free and pleasant as possible. Most of our treatment is done in an open space with other patients present. The goal is to provide a stress-free and easy patient experience for patients of any age.
The average length of treatment can vary on a case-by-case basis. Some cases are a year long, while others can be up to three years. One of the biggest deciding factors is whether there is an orthopedic problem requiring realignment of the jaw, which usually requires waiting for growth. In contrast, purely dental problems that only involve crooked teeth may only need 18 to 24 months.
There are a range of options for braces, with metal braces being the most common. Ceramic braces and Invisalign are also available.
Above all, our orthodontists and our highly trained staff want to make you and your child happy. From our convenient process to our effective methods, AC Orthodontics is committed to doing just that.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics
Going to the dentist or orthodontist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists and experienced orthodontists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!