Well-aligned teeth and symmetric, well-positioned jaws can make the difference in one’s aspect as well as in one’s health. A perfect smile makes a positive impression and at the same time helps the owner speaks, bites and chews perfectly, thus helping the digestive system to work properly. Furthermore, well aligned teeth are cleaner and healthier, since they are easier to brush and take care of. This is why; when things do not look so good in your mouth it is time to see an orthodontist! But what is an orthodontist?
Formally speaking, an orthodontist is a dental professional specialized in treating teeth alignment problems and jaw issues derived from badly positioned teeth or abnormal development of one of the jaws. They have extensive knowledge about the way in which teeth, jaws, gums and muscle function and can diagnose teeth alignment problems. Based on the preliminary evaluation, the orthodontist prescribes a treatment adapted to patient’s needs and devises necessary dental appliances to be used during the treatment period.
An orthodontist treats different teeth conditions, including:
• Over-bite or under-bite – conditions caused by the fact that the upper and lower jaws do not meet;
• Crooked teeth or overcrowding – appears when the permanent teeth erupt before the temporary teeth are removed. The permanent teeth thus grow badly aligned because of the lack of space.
• Gaps -between teeth caused by thumb or finger sucking;
• Crossbite – the tooth is positioned towards the cheek or tongue, instead of a straight position in which it should meet the opposite upper/lower tooth.
• Esthetic problems related to uneven jaws.
Types of dental appliances that orthodontists use in order to treat the aforementioned conditions:
• Braces – made in metal, ceramic or clear (plastic) material, the dental braces are used to straighten crooked teeth and to place them in the right position for a healthy and good looking dentition. Braces cover all teeth and gently push them so that the patient is able to carry on with their daily routine, while the teeth are being re-positioned. These dental appliances are used continuously, with small interruptions when brushing.
• Retainers – significantly smaller than braces, the retainers are used after the treatment with braces is complete. They are positioned on the inner part of the teeth and are usually made or a small metal wire which keeps the teeth in place and helps consolidate the results obtained with the braces treatment. The retainers require only few hours of wear every day, normally during sleep.
• Headgear and facemasks – these devices are used for correcting jaw development problems and can be used by themselves or in connection with braces, where necessary. They are personalized to fit the patient’s needs.
But an orthodontist is much more than a devoted professional who installs dental appliances. He is also:
• a trained specialist
Orthodontists go through a long and complex training which stretches along 10 years or more, depending on the chosen type of residency. The journey starts with college, preferably with a major in science. The student must complete different courses, such as organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, mathematics and English in order to be considered for the next step, the dental school. The dental school offers general information on teeth and their problems. Students who graduate this form of education can choose to work as dentists or continue their specialization with a residency program. Orthodontists can choose between different orthodontic residency programs which last 2 up to 4 years. Regardless of their duration, all specialization programs require continuous work and interaction with patients, so that the orthodontist acquires all the necessary skills and the experience to treat future patients.
• an avid learner
Orthodontics is a dynamic science and, just like any medical branch, requires constant training. Therefore, the orthodontist is always ready to learn new techniques and new ways of treating different teeth problems. Usually, they attend post-graduate courses which present them all the novelties in the field. For orthodontists learning never stops and this is always an advantage for their patients.
• a good examiner
Where one sees crooked teeth, the orthodontist sees causes and effects, as well as ways in which these poorly aligned teeth can be turned into a perfect smile. Using their education, their expertise and their experience, the orthodontists check the teeth, jaws and gums from multiple perspectives and identify the cause, give a diagnostic and propose a treatment. They know the way in which the 32 teeth, gums, upper and lower jaw and facial muscles function, so they know exactly what treatment to use so that the results are not only spectacular, but also permanent. The first orthodontic check-up involves an X-rays examination and a teeth mold which will help the orthodontist make a complete picture of the existent problems. Based on these and on the physical examination, they devise a step-by-step treatment.
• a friend
A good orthodontist will never try to impose a treatment, but rather explain teeth’s condition, treatment’s necessity and its results on short and long term. All these on a friendly voice, so that the patient feels comfortable and at ease with the procedures involved. The orthodontist is sympathetic towards the patient and cares about their feelings, on both physical and emotional levels. Thus, the treatment is chosen only in accordance with patient’s needs as well as their preferences. If the patient is a child, the orthodontist uses toys and child-friendly equipment in order to make their experience as pleasant as possible.
Orthodontists have the key to a perfect smile. With patience and care they diagnose, evaluate and treat any alignment problems, without yet leaving aside patient’s worries and concerns. Therefore if you feel that your teeth are not in the right position or the dentist has recommended an orthodontic check-up, do not postpone your visit to the orthodontist. They will make your teeth look and feel better and will always encourage you along your journey. Only after such an experience you can give a sincere, accurate and complete answer to the question “what is an orthodontist?”