What Is An Orthodontist? What Do They Do?

Ever wondered what an orthodontist actually does? Need your teeth straightened or just want more information on this specialism? Well, here we will try and answer some of your questions about this type of dentist, who specializes in fixing teeth that are not “in line” and giving you a better smile by directing your teeth into shape!

If a general dentist feels that a person needs braces or other corrective devices, he or she will refer the person to an orthodontist. Orthodontists are dentists who have special training in the diagnosis and treatment of teeth and jaws that are misaligned. Orthodontics is the study of dentistry that is concerned with the treatment of improper bites, and crooked teeth. So this form of  treatment can help fix the patient’s teeth and set them in the right place.Image of orthodontist braces


The Role of an Orthodontist

Once an orthodontist completes their training and starts practicing, he or she needs to interact with children, patients and other dentists. S/he is trained to manage tooth movement and to guide the facial development of children. The job requires that he or she have a high level of manual skill and diagnostic ability. If one wants to have a career as an orthodontist then they need to be good at skills like visual memory, judgment of space and shape, manual dexterity, planning, visualization etc. They will need a scientific leaning and an organized, methodical approach to their work.

An orthodontist straightens teeth by applying directed,precise pressure through braces. The constant pressure makes the teeth move within the jaw bone and correct their alignment to a functionally and aesthetically desired location. The pressure can causes a little bit of soreness – but not much as you can read here.

Movement of teeth can be achieved by using braces which can be metallic, ceramic or more modern braces like lingual braces (worn on the ‘inner’ surfaces of teeth towards the palate or tongue so that they are not visible). Other options include Invisalign (consists of clear plastic aligners that move teeth) or “Damon” brackets (more comfortable for the patient as they are self-ligating that is they do not need another wire to hold the wire in place)

The Invisalign appliances are not actually braces, but more like a tray that fits over your teeth and guides them into correct positions. The tray needs to be changed every two weeks to make adjustments for tooth movement. A series of clear plastic custom-made trays are prepared by the technician as each adjustment is based on exact computed calculations to shift the teeth gradually into the desired positions.

Nowadays wearing braces can be fun and fashionable as the braces are available in different colors and shapes. Children can also use different colored elastics and change the color whenever they have to wear new elastics. Of course the child’s orthodontist should be the one to decide what is best though.Orthodontist putting on braces

The cost of this treatment can be quite high, depending on the time-frame and appliances needed. Some insurance providers will help cover the cost, but often will require a specific policy to be taken out. The advantages of straighter teeth, both cosmetically and in terms of dental health make the cost a worthwhile, if not always ’embraced’, investment.

Other careers linked to this specialism include orthodontic assistants and lab technicians.


Becoming an orthodontist

The career path differs slightly depending on where you love. But generally speaking, after doing a “basic” undergraduate course in dentistry, a general dentist can become an orthodontist by taking up a post graduate programme in the field. Two to three years full-time post-graduate education is generally needed for a dentist to qualify as a specialist in this field.


Overall, orthodontia is a very interesting and useful field of study in the art and science of dentistry. The skills and technology in this field are constantly evolving, allowing for more acceptable appliances and greater patient acceptance.


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