Orthodontics and Orthodontic Treatment
Orthodontics: The Basics
Orthodontics is a specialty within the field of dentistry. It is focused on the study and treatment of problematic bites. (The medical term for this is "malocclusion.") People may have problematic bites due to having irregular teeth and/or issues with the jaw.
Many people think mainly of issues with teeth when they think of orthodontics. However, orthodontic treatment can focus not only on irregular teeth (dental displacement) but also on the control and modification of facial growth. The latter is more correctly called "dentofacial orthopedics".
There are various reasons people seek orthodontic treatment. Often it is purely in order to look better--given the choice, people tend to prefer having even, straight, "normal" teeth. However, people with significant issues with facial structure may see an orthodontist that works on reconstructing the entire face rather than just on correcting issues with the teeth. This kind of treatment can help people with significant facial structure issues a functionally improved bite.
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Common Conditions Treated by Orthodontists
This type of condition is the most frequent reason people seek orthodontic treatment. Anteroposterior discrepancies are deviations between upper and lower teeth in the anteroposterior (front-to-back--as opposed to side-to-side) direction. A common example is "overbite"--when top teeth are too far forward relative to bottom teeth. Such conditions are often treated by using braces and headgear. The headgear is attached to the braces with hooks or a facebow and is anchored from the back of the head or neck with straps or a head-cap. Elastic bands are typically then used to apply pressure to the bow or hooks. This helps to slow or stop the upper jaw from growing, which can preventing or correct overbite.
Crowding of teeth
Another common situation leading to orthodontic treatment is crowding of the teeth. This occurs when there is not enough room for the normal number of adult teeth. Sometimes this can be corrected with braces, but in some cases one or more teeth may need to be removed in order to create enough room for the remaining teeth.