Orthodontics is the field of dentistry concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusion (improper bites or the misalignment of opposing lower and upper teeth) and crooked teeth which may result from tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationship or both. It is derived from two Greek words orthos which means straight, proper or perfect and odous which means teeth.
It includes dentofacial orthopedics, which is used to correct problems involving growth of the jaw. This treatment can be carried out for purely aesthetic reasons with an aim of improving the general appearance of patient’s teeth. Sometimes it is done with an aim of restructuring the entire face. It is used primarily to correct health patterns and ensure proper functioning of the mouth.
Most malocclusions are caused by hereditary factors that affect the contours of the face and size of the jaw and teeth. The most common cause is disproportion in size between the jaw and teeth or between the upper and lower jaws. For example, a child inheriting a mother’s small jaw and the father’s large teeth may have teeth too big for the jaw hence overcrowding.
Orthodontics involves the use of corrective appliances, including braces and retainers to straighten crooked teeth and repair irregular bites. The teeth are aligned with braces by applying constant pressure in a desired direction. This pressure is adjusted at some intervals over the course of the treatment, which can last from one to three years depending on how severe the patient’s case is.
After orthodontic treatment, the patient uses retainers that are generally worn full time for a period of 6 months to 1 year. They can also be used part time, day or night depending on orthodontist recommendation.
Also, there is the use of invisalign which is an orthodontic treatment that gradually straightens teeth through the use of custom fitted plastic aligners that are worn 24 hours a day except when eating and drinking.
Teeth that are aligned properly and are close together in the correct way simplify oral hygiene and enable efficient chewing of food especially in children.
Orthodontic treatment is very important as it straightens teeth that are rotated, tilted, or otherwise improperly aligned teeth; corrects crowded or unevenly spaced teeth; corrects bite problems and aligns upper and lower jaws.
Orthodontic treatment is usually very successful at correcting malocclusion. Even in adults, corrective orthognthic surgery is required to shorten or lengthen a jaw bone.