Orthodontists diagnose and treat crooked, misaligned or abnormal teeth and jaws. They also help to improve the bite, and treat sleep apnea.
They use a variety of appliances, including braces and clear aligners. They can even fit devices such as palate expanders, which widen a person’s upper jaw to create extra room for growing teeth.
An orthodontist will evaluate a patients mouth and discuss treatment options with the patient and their dentist, taking into consideration factors like oral health, tooth color, bone structure and facial growth patterns. This helps the orthodontist develop a comprehensive treatment plan that will work best for the patient.
The orthodontist will take x-rays, photos and molds of the teeth to analyze them. This helps them determine the best options for treatment, such as whether or not orthodontics can correct a gap in the teeth called a diastema. This gap can grow larger over time, leading to dental and jaw problems.
In some cases, the orthodontist will extract some of a persons teeth to open up space and prevent other problems from occurring. This is especially common for children, who need more room in their mouths to grow up healthy and strong.
Orthodontists also use special techniques and appliances to improve a persons smile, such as cosmetic bonding. In addition, they often perform surgical procedures to repair broken or chipped teeth.
To become an orthodontist, a student must attend college for a pre-dentistry or pre-medical degree and then go on to a four-year dental school. They then pass the National Dental Exam to receive their license to practice dentistry.
After graduation from dental school, orthodontists must complete an additional two to three years of training that is specific to their specialty. This is called a residency.
During their residency, orthodontists learn the latest techniques for improving oral health and appearance. They study advanced orthodontics and get additional training in complex cases, such as impacted teeth, severe bite problems, and complex jaw conditions.
They must also learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of dental disease. This includes signs and symptoms that can be difficult to see, such as bleeding gums or a loose crown.
Their education and experience in these areas enable them to provide accurate diagnosis, which is the key to a successful treatment outcome. They can recommend the most appropriate course of treatment, and then implement it.
Patients with crooked or irregular teeth or jaws are typically referred to an orthodontist by their dentist. However, patients should visit an orthodontist for consultation at any age if they have concerns about their bite or teeth.
An orthodontist can recommend a retainer after treatment to keep the teeth in their proper positions. Retainers can be made of acrylic, ceramic or plastic and are custom-fitted to the patients teeth.
They may be used for short periods or for life. If a retainer is not worn, the tooth may drift back into its original position and cause more problems.