Orthodontics is the part of dentistry that focuses on teeth placement and mouth/jaw alignment. Orthodontists work to straighten crooked teeth and to ensure that all teeth have the room they need and that the jaw aligns properly for optimum health. While dentists pay attention to jaw and mouth structure they focus most on the health of your teeth; orthodontists pay attention to the teeth health but focus most on your teeth’s alignment and the bones holding your teeth.
Orthodontia patients are of all ages, from five or six (sometimes even younger) through adults with kids of their own.
Often — if there are bone alignment issues involving either upper or lower palate, or the jawbones themselves — treatment can start when a child is in kindergarten or first grade. In these cases it’s much easier (and faster, less painful and less expensive) to improve a mouth’s structural shape when the child’s face is young and still growing.
To align the teeth themselves, orthodontists use a combination of upper and lower braces (metal brackets on the teeth connected by wires) and retainers. Additional orthodontic hardware used to move teeth and jawbones include removable appliances ("plates"), headgear, expansion appliances, and more.
For most patients, after the main "hardware" stage of treatment is done (braces and appliances removed), you will be fitted with removable retainers. The retainer, upper, lower or both, will keep your teeth lined up. Sometimes retainers are worn all day and sometimes just at night.
Having braces and other orthodontic equipment in your mouth makes regular teeth brushing and flossing even more important than before you started treatment. Food caught underneath your appliances can lead to nasty tooth decay.
Also, if you play a sport be sure to ask your orthodontist about mouth guards made especially to protect you with braces.
Download our MPD Ortho Education Packet.