What is an Orthodontist?

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What is Orthodontics?

Dentists specialize in a certain field of dentistry in a similar way to how doctors choose to work in, say, neurology or cardiology.

Orthodontics is one dental specialty that focuses specifically on diagnosing, treating and preventing dental irregularities, including bad bite issues called malocclusions. In many cases, orthodontic practices are limited to dental facial orthopedics and general orthodontics. Still, patients of any age can be treated.

What is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dentist with full qualifications who decides to take an additional three years of university study and get the extensive clinical experience in a residency situation necessary to call himself or herself an orthodontist. These professionals are regulated by the American Association of Orthodontists. Choosing an orthodontist who has chosen to be a member of the AAO is your assurance that your treatment is being handled by someone with the right education in biomechanics and oral biology. This body recommends all children should be examined by an orthodontist around age 7 to make sure there are no signs of jaw or tooth abnormalities.

What kind of work does an orthodontist do?

Orthodontists are dental professionals who correct misalignments of the jaw or teeth. Misalignments can lead to many debilitating issues, including speed problems, chewing problems and the inability to maintain good oral hygiene. What is an Orthodontist? Here are common problems an orthodontist can treat successfully:
  • Anteroposterior deviations: This includes underbite and overbite, situations where the upper or lower teeth protrude further than their counterpart. Both of the abnormalities cause problems with speaking and chewing, among other things.
  • Overcrowding: One of the most common problems treated by orthodontists is overcrowding. This happens when the jawbone does not have adequate space for all the teeth, and teeth erupt in misalignment with other teeth. An orthodontist can realign these teeth using unobtrusive treatments and devices that lead to a better look and better function.
  • Aesthetic issues: In certain situations, the entire shape of the face is impacted negatively by bad bite or malocclusion issues. In these cases, an orthodontist can realign and restructure the jaw, teeth and lips to make a beautiful and consistent smile.

How can an orthodontist realign teeth and jaws?

Before any action is taken, an orthodontist conducts and exam of the jaw and teeth. This usually includes panoramic x-rays as well as bite impressions or study models and other things. Then, the orthodontist will make specific recommendations for treatment based on the exam and the particular conditions noted.

Orthodontists may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
  • Dental braces: This combination of brackets attached to individual teeth and an arch wire that connects to the brackets is the most common orthodontic procedure to gently move teeth into proper alignment. Braces can be clear and nearly invisible or made of ceramic or metal.
  • Facemasks and headgear: Most often used to correct developmental problems like an overbite or underbite, facemasks and headgear are used in addition to braces in most cases. They involve devices that fit around the head and connect to the braces. The structure is designed to help move teeth and the jawbone into proper alignment.
  • Retainers: Once teeth have been properly realigned using dental braces, headgear and removable devices, retainers are often provided to keep the teeth from moving back to their original position while the underlying bone adjusts to the new and correct positioning.


If you have concerns or questions about orthodontics, call (619) 640-5100 for a free consultation with Dr. Paige Woods, DDS.