What does an orthodontist do? Most people associate an orthodontist with a specialist who puts braces in order to straighten unevenly growing teeth. This method of malocclusion correction has become quite popular and no one is surprised to see adults with fixed braces. However, the orthodontist’s role is not limited to the selection and installation of braces. What does an orthodontist do? What tests can he order and what to expect after a visit to the orthodontic office?
Who is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dentist who has specialized in orthodontics. Like other dentists, he deals with dental and oral health issues, but unlike general dentists, he does not treat caries and does not perform extractions. The task of the orthodontist is to eliminate and prevent malocclusion. However, these are not the only tasks of an orthodontist. The doctor of this specialization also deals with all bone abnormalities in the maxillofacial area, which may translate into incorrect position of the teeth in the dental arch and bite problems.
When is the help of an orthodontist necessary?
Many people decide to visit an orthodontist in order to ensure perfectly straight teeth. It is known that malocclusion is quite common, but many people can align their teeth and gain a Hollywood smile with the help of an orthodontist and braces. However, aesthetic issues are not the most important. Orthodontic treatment is a medical procedure, not a beauty treatment, due to a whole range of problems that may result from irregularities in the arrangement of teeth in the dental arch.
Too tightly arranged teeth, unevenly crowded in some areas of the jaw, can make it very difficult to reach the interdental spaces during brushing. This promotes the development of caries and mechanical damage to the enamel due to the pressure of one tooth on another. Malocclusion can also be responsible for problems with correct pronunciation. This is why visits to the orthodontist for children are so important. Uneven distribution of forces within the jaw when chewing food, in turn, can cause gum problems and periodontal disease.
In addition, occlusal alignment is crucial when replacing missing teeth and choosing partial dentures. Their proper adhesion and full functionality are usually possible only after correcting bite problems, if any.
What tests does an orthodontist perform?
During the first visit to the orthodontic office, you should be prepared for an examination similar to a dental check-up and a fairly detailed medical history. The orthodontist will examine not only the condition of the oral cavity, but also examine the teeth and gums and determine possible malocclusions. The orthodontist also pays attention to the condition of the facial muscles, tongue, and mobility of the temporomandibular joints. Tests that an orthodontist may order include:
- x-rays of individual teeth,
- Panoramic RTV pictures of dental arches (bite pictures),
- face photos,
- tooth impressions,
- ultrasound of the temporomandibular joints.
Sometimes, in order to determine the causes of malocclusion, the orthodontist may refer the patient for consultations at laryngology, speech therapy clinics, and even dieticians.
What does orthodontic treatment look like?
If the orthodontist finds a malocclusion, he or she will most often propose the implementation of treatment in the form of a properly selected orthodontic appliance. The type and details of treatment depend on various factors, but the most important are the cause of the defect and the age of the patient.
In the case of children, removable appliances are often used, inserted at night or at certain times of the day. Very often, they are only an introduction to treatment with a fixed appliance, which is placed after all permanent teeth have erupted. Removable appliances can also help in correcting the facial bone position.
Fixed braces can be in the form of classic braces, in which the splints are attached to the front of the teeth and the braces are visible from the outside as characteristic metal clips. However, the orthodontist can also put on lingual braces, glued to the teeth from the inside. Sometimes a sufficient form of therapy is the selection of a special splint. However, regardless of which appliance is chosen, the entire treatment usually lasts many months and includes a number of follow-up visits. During these visits, the orthodontist adjusts the settings of the braces, adjusting them to the changing position of the teeth. He replaces some of its parts, puts on new silicone rubber bands, checks if the correction proceeds at the planned pace and in a satisfactory manner.
When asked what an orthodontist does, it can be answered that he cares for the correct bite and the proper functioning of bones, muscles and joints around the mouth. However, it should be remembered that prophylaxis and orthodontic treatment include many different examinations, carried out during visits or ordered additionally. The treatment itself with braces, regardless of its type, usually lasts from several months to even 3 years. However, it is worth spending time and money on orthodontic treatment. In this way, we care not only for the aesthetics of the smile, but also prevent irregularities that may lead to periodontal disease, problems with gums or joints, and speech defects.