Have you ever admired someone’s amazing smile because of their perfectly aligned pearly white teeth? Some people are born with a beautiful smile while others have spaces between their teeth or a bad bite. If you have any such problems, an orthodontist can fix them and make your teeth straighter, giving you a lovely smile too. And it’s not only your smile that will improve. Misaligned teeth can lead to a number of dental issues such as tooth decay and gum disease. So, getting orthodontic care may be necessary for more than just cosmetic reasons. Continue reading to find out more about this specialized branch of dentistry and learn an easy way to find a top-rated orthodontist in your city.
What does an orthodontist do?
An orthodontist is a dentist who has received special training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of jaw and teeth irregularities. Many people think orthodontists treat teenagers with braces. While this is true, orthodontists also correct several other types of dental problems. And orthodontists treat people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and adults. Some of the treatments an orthodontist offers include:
- Fixing crooked teeth
- Correcting bite problems such as an overbite, underbite, or crossbite
- Fixing crowded teeth or teeth that are spaced too far apart
- Correcting jaw misalignment and malocclusion
The objective of orthodontic treatment is to ensure that the teeth are straight and evenly spaced in the mouth and that the upper and lower jaws are well aligned (this is called a person’s “bite”). A healthy bite ensures that a person can eat, chew, and talk properly.
What’s the difference between a dentist and orthodontist?
Dentistry is a broad medical discipline that deals with oral health in general, including the teeth, gums, and jaw. Orthodontics is a specialty branch of dentistry that focuses on correcting a patient’s occlusion and bite. Orthodontic treatment involves fitting patients with corrective braces or other devices to improve the straightness of their teeth. In other words, all orthodontists are dentists but not all dentists are orthodontists.
Orthodontists undergo additional education and training after dental school. This is similar to a medical doctor training to become a nephrologist to treat conditions of the urinary system.
What kind of training do orthodontists undergo?
An orthodontist spends an additional two to three years in a residency program that focuses on orthodontic care. This additional training is required because orthodontics is a specialized branch and most dental school programs offer very limited instruction in this specialty.
During their training in orthodontics, dentists learn to properly and safely remove teeth to correct problems such as overcrowding in the mouth. They also learn about dentofacial orthopedics, i.e., techniques to guide the movement of the teeth and jaw.
Once an orthodontist completes their training, they can become board certified by passing some exams (this is voluntary).
Do I need to see a dentist or orthodontist? What are some of the reasons to see an orthodontist?
If you need general dental care such as filling of cavities, tooth extraction, repair of chipped or cracked teeth, professional cleaning, treatment for gum disease, teeth whitening, installation of crowns or veneers, etc., you should see a general or family dentist.
However, for some problems, you may require specialized orthodontic care. Your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist if there are issues with your teeth and mouth in terms of alignment, spacing, or occlusion. Some of the treatments commonly offered by orthodontists are briefly described below.
Braces and dental appliances
Orthodontists use braces and other dental appliances to fix problems with crooked teeth. People can develop crowded, protruding, or irregularly spaced teeth due to various reasons. In some folks, bad teeth are inherited while in others they are caused by premature loss of teeth, thumb sucking, or accidents. Treatment with braces can give a person a nice smile and a healthier mouth. This is because crowded or crooked teeth are harder to keep clean. Therefore, without the proper treatment, overcrowding in the mouth can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Also, teeth that are in the wrong place can prevent the surrounding teeth from developing properly, ultimately leading to problems with chewing and speaking. 1
Braces are dental appliances that apply gradual gentle pressure on the teeth. They typically consist of brackets that are attached to the teeth with rubber bands or wires. The orthodontist regularly tightens the wires to slowly shift the teeth in the jaw.  Dental braces can be made of metal or a tooth-colored material. A special type of braces called Invisalign can be placed on the backs of the teeth to make them virtually invisible.
Besides braces, orthodontists sometimes use appliances called aligners to straighten crooked teeth. These are appliances made of clear acrylic or plastic material that are worn over the teeth. An orthodontist will give a patient a new set of aligners every couple of weeks or so as they progress through treatment. This causes the teeth to gradually move into a new position. Unlike braces, aligners are removable, so you can take them out to eat, brush your teeth, and floss.
In some people, the upper or lower jaw sticks out and gives them an uneven bite. Such individuals may require surgical correction to improve the function and appearance of their bite. Orthodontists can collaborate with oral and maxillofacial surgeons to offer orthognathic surgery (surgery to correct jaw deformities and malocclusion). 2 These types of surgeries are performed both to achieve functional occlusion as well as for facial aesthetics.
When to start treatment with dental braces?
In general, orthodontists recommend starting treatment with braces after a child has lost most (if not all) of their milk (baby) teeth. They want to wait and see how the adult (permanent) teeth come in before starting orthodontic care. As a result, most kids usually start braces treatment between the ages of 8 and 14. 3
A non-traditional approach called the interceptive approach involves treating a child with dental appliances at an earlier age when he or she mostly has baby teeth. Later, the child may be treated with traditional braces after early treatment is completed. However, this two-phase approach can often be more time-consuming and expensive with results that are not exceptionally better than the conventional approach.
It is a good idea to schedule an initial consultation with an orthodontist when your child is around the age of 7. The orthodontist will recommend a treatment plan based on the severity of the misalignment and overcrowding in your child’s mouth.
Braces are traditionally thought to be a treatment for teenagers. However, a growing number of adults in the United States and worldwide are getting braces because they’re concerned about their appearance and oral health.
What happens at an orthodontist’s appointment?
An orthodontist appointment is not very different from a dental appointment. You go to their office and are examined and treated in a dental chair. When you visit an orthodontist for the first time, you will likely under a thorough oral examination. The orthodontist will also take photos of your face and smile for comparison purposes before and after orthodontic treatment.
They may obtain some dental X-rays, including panoramic (360-degree) X-rays of the head and face. Your orthodontist may also take impressions to create molds of your upper and lower jaws and teeth. Based on what they see on the exam and X-rays, the orthodontist will recommend a treatment plan for you. This may involve pulling teeth to correct overcrowding or using dental appliances to gradually move teeth closer together if the spacing is too wide.
How long does orthodontic treatment last?
Orthodontic treatments tend to be long. You should expect to return for several visits, sometimes lasting several months or even years. For example, orthodontic treatment with braces typically takes 1-3 years with a need for regular visits to the clinic. This is required to make sure the braces are doing what they’re supposed to do and for making adjustments.
How to find an orthodontist near me?
The Express Dentist hotline at 1-844-593-0591 is a quick and easy way to find an orthodontist near you. This is a toll-free number that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays. You can call during regular business hours, after hours, and on the weekends, and connect instantly with a top-rated orthodontist in your hometown.
Express Dentist has partnered with leading orthodontists nationwide. All it takes is one phone call to connect with orthodontists in your area and get a same-day or next-day appointment.
You can call the Express Dentist hotline on 1-844- 593-0591 for:
- Orthodontic evaluation from accredited providers
- Braces for adults, teenagers, and children
- Correction of misalignment, malocclusion, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems
- Fixing an overbite or underbite
Each of our partner orthodontists is carefully vetted to ensure you receive the highest quality of orthodontic care.
All calls to the Express Dentist hotline 1-844- 593-0591 are completely free of cost (there are no charges for the referral). Call the toll-free number today and connect to an orthodontist near you.
About the author
Dr. Greg Grillo
Dr. Greg Grillo DDS studied at the University of Washington where he received a bachelors degree with Honors and later attended dental school on the same campus. Following school Dr. Greg served in the United States Navy as a dental officer. During this time he received advanced training in specialty areas of dentistry while also treating families of members of the military.
As well as sharing valuable information on dentistry and oral health, Dr. Greg remains a practicing dentist to this day. He works with families in the Okanogan Valley where he lives with his wife and three children.
- American Dental Association. Braces and Orthodontics. Available online. Accessed on June 3, 2021.
- Khechoyan DY. Orthognathic surgery: general considerations. Semin Plast Surg. 2013;27(3):133-136. doi:10.1055/s-0033-1357109. Available online. Accessed on June 3, 2021.
- Mayo Clinic. Dental Braces: When to Start. Available online. Accessed on June 3, 2021.