Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusions (improper bites), which may be a result of tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships, or both. The word comes from the Greek words ortho meaning straight and odons meaning tooth.
Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or can deal with the control and modification of facial growth. In the latter case it is better defined as "dentofacial orthopedics".
Orthodontic treatment can be carried out for purely aesthetic reasons with regards to improving the general appearance of patients' teeth. However, there are Orthodontists, who work on reconstructing the entire face, rather than focusing exclusively on teeth. Nonetheless, treatment is most often prescribed for practical reasons such as providing the patient with a functionally improved bite (occlusion).
Orthodontics is formally defined by the American Association of Orthodontics as 'The area of dentistry concerned with the supervision, guidance and correction of the growing and mature dentofacial structures, including those conditions that require movement of teeth or correction of malrelationships and mal relationships between and among teeth and facial bones by the application of forces and.or the stimulation and redirection or the functional forces within the craniofacial complex'
If the main goal of the treatment is the dental displacement, most commonly a fixed multibracket therapy is used. In this case orthodontic wires are inserted into dental braces, which can be made from stainless steel or a more aesthetic ceramic material.
Also removable appliances, or "plates", headgear, expansion appliances, and many other devices can be used to move teeth. Functional and orthopaedics appliances are used in growing patients (age 5 to 14) with the aim to modify the jaw dimensions and relationship if these are altered. (See Prognathism.) This therapy is frequently followed by a fixed multibracket therapy to align the teeth and refine the occlusion
After a course of active orthodontic treatment, patients will often wear retainers, which will maintain the teeth in their improved position while the surrounding bone reforms around them. The retainers are generally worn full-time for a short period, perhaps 6 months to a year, and then worn periodically (typically nightly during sleep) for as long as the orthodontist recommends. It is possible for the teeth to stay aligned without regular retainer wear. However, there are many reasons teeth will crowd as a person ages; thus there is no guarantee that teeth, orthodontically treated or otherwise, will stay aligned without retention. For this reason, many orthodontists recommend periodic retainer wear for many years (or indefinitely) after orthodontic treatment.
Appropriately trained doctors align the teeth with respect to the surrounding soft tissues, with or without movement of the underlying bones, which can be moved either through growth modification in children or jaw surgery (orthognathic surgery) in adults.
Several appliances are utilized for growth modification; including functional appliances, Headgear and Facemasks.
These "orthopedic appliances" may influence the development of an adolescent's profile and give an improved aesthetic and functional result
The most common condition that the methods of orthodontics are used for is correcting anteroposterior discrepancies. Another common situation leading to orthodontic treatment is crowding of the teeth.
Orthodontics was the first recognized specialty field within dentistry. Many countries have their own systems for training and registering orthodontic specialists. Generally, a period of full-time post-graduate study is required for a dentist to qualify as an orthodontist.
United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
A number of dental schools and hospitals offer advanced education in the specialty of Orthodontics to dentists seeking postgraduate education. The courses range from two to three years (with the majority being 3 years) of full-time classes in the theoretical and practical aspects of orthodontics together with clinical experience. Generally, admission is based on an application process followed by an extensive interviewing process by the institution, in order to select the best candidates. Candidates usually have to contact the individual school directly for the application process.
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