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Orthodontics "orthodontia" or the specialty of
dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment
of malocclusions, which may be a result of tooth irregularity,
disproportionate jaw relationships, or both.
Orthodontic treatment can be carried out for purely aesthetic
reasons - improving the general appearance of patients'
teeth for cosmetic reasons- but treatment is often prescribed
for practical reasons, providing the patient with a functionally
improved bite (occlusion).
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in diagnosing
and treating malocclusions, which are mis-alignments of
the teeth, jaws, or both. Following dental school, an orthodontist
completes 2-3 years of full-time additional training resulting
in a specialty certificate in orthodontics. In many orthodontic
training programs, students can also earn one of three master's
degree (Master of Science - MS; Master of Dental Science
- MDS, or Master of Science in Dentistry - MSD) in addition
to a specialty certificate.
The orthodontist will align teeth with respect to the surrounding
soft tissues, with or without movement of the underlying
bones (which can be moved either through orthopaedic or
orthognathic movements). Orthopaedic movements are attained
through the judicious use of (mainly) acrylic appliances
(functional appliances), that influence the position of
the jaws relative to one other and the face, and will be
carried out on growing children. The correct application
of orthopaedic appliances can influence the development
of an adolescent's jawline, giving a much improved aesthetic
and functional result.
Orthognathic movement is achieved by surgically repositioning
the jaw(s), in patients that have completed their growth.
Such surgical treatment is carried out by maxillofacial
surgeons who work closely with the orthodontic team.
One of the most common situations leading to orthodontic
treatment is crowding of the teeth. In this situation, there
is insufficient room for the normal complement of adult
teeth, which can sometimes result in teeth being extracted.
Crowding of teeth is recognised as an affliction that stems
in part from a modern western lifestyle. We do not know
for sure whether it is due to the consistency of western
diets; a result of mouthbreathing; or the result of an early
loss of deciduous (milk, baby) teeth due to decay. It is
also possible that Homo sapiens have evolved smaller jaws
without a reduction in the number of teeth they will house
happening at the same time. orthodontistry is not always
for aesthetic purposes. Braces may be fitted in the case
of an overbite to help prevent the occurence of teeth being
knocked out in an accident, for example, hockey or skating.
Much has been made in the media of links between tooth
extraction and temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction (problems,
including clicking and jamming, of the jaw joint). No research
has shown a definitive link between extraction of teeth
and jaw joint problems. Most temporo-mandibular joint problems
are a result of the patient having a clenching habit - that
is the patient bites the teeth together on a regular basis
(e.g. when under stress).