An orthodontist is a dental specialist who works to prevent or correct misaligned teeth and jaws, which are called malocclusions or faulty occlusions. A person may seek this specialist's services for cosmetic reasons as well as health reasons. Beside the insecurity and low self esteem that dental irregularities may cause, they can also affect a person’s ability to chew and speak. Severely misaligned teeth and jaws can cause snoring, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems. An orthodontist is also instrumental in correcting the teeth and jaws in babies born with cleft lips or cleft palates.
It is estimated that more than half of the US population has misaligned or irregular teeth and jaws. The severity and types of these faulty occlusions differ in their presentations and include cross bites, open bites, over and under bites, and many more.
The techniques that an orthodontist uses depend on his or her diagnosis. Diagnoses are usually made by taking x-rays and by having the patient bite down onto a mold to determine the specific alignment of his or her teeth. Correction methods might include braces, retainers or other special devices to realign or guide incoming teeth. In severe malocclusions, the specialist may have to break the jaw bones and wire the jaw shut so that it heals better aligned.
The dental problems that may cause an adult or child to require dental services can be the result of many factors. Heredity, or dental problems that run in the family, is one of the biggest reasons. This can be because of the bone structure of the jaws, baby teeth that are lost too early, or overcrowding of the teeth. Other reasons include tooth decay and accidents or injuries, all of which affect the structure of the mouth.
An orthodontist can prevent dental irregularities in children by conducting exams before all of the permanent teeth erupt. A child should ideally have his or her first visit with a specialist around the age of seven, especially when there is a family history of crooked teeth and malocclusions. The early intervention takes advantage of the still growing bones of the jaw and pending eruption of the permanent teeth, and it can make future corrections take effect more smoothly and quickly.