Orthodontists are specialists in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists are uniquely qualified to correct improperly aligned teeth and jaws as they receive an additional two-to-three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to treat malocclusions.
Most people realize that orthodontic treatment results in a beautiful smile but many don’t realize the additional lasting health benefits. Many malocclusions are hereditary, including crowding, spacing between teeth, extra or missing teeth, cleft palate and other of irregularities of the jaws. Some malocclusions can be caused by certain habits such as thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting as well as dental disease, premature loss of teeth or even some medical problems. A malocclusion can cause irregular wear of tooth surfaces, difficulty in chewing and excess stress of the supporting bone and gum tissue.
Straight teeth and properly aligned jaws and may increase confidence and self-esteem as teeth, lips and jaws move into a more balanced position, enhancing facial appearance. Straight teeth also contribute to good dental health as they function better and are easier to clean. Certain types of malocclusion may also contribute to speech impairments, tooth damage or loss and other dental injuries therefore correction of these types of bites can be quite beneficial.
It is recommended that all children meet with an orthodontist no later than age seven. At this age, enough permanent teeth have erupted allowing orthodontists to evaluate the positions of the teeth and jaws as well as to identify current or developing problems. The orthodontist may chose to simply follow the child’s dental development and will assess the optimal timing to begin treatment if necessary.
Sometimes, there is a need to intervene at a young age in order to prevent a condition from worsening. This is named “interceptive orthodontics”. The orthodontist may also wish to benefit from a child’s natural growth spurt to guide jaws and teeth into their correct positions. An early orthodontic evaluation can ease a parent’s concerns about crooked teeth or facial development and about orthodontic treatment. Some conditions are best treated early for biological, social or practical reasons, whereas others can, and sometimes should be deferred. The final decisions in regards to treatment timing should involve the parent, the child’s dentist and the orthodontist.
An attractive smile is often the most noticed improvement from the patient’s perspective, but improved oral health and general well being are important treatment goals as well.