Branches of Dentistry: Orthodontics
Orthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and correction of misaligned teeth and jaws.
The abnormal alignment in the teeth and jaws is quite common. Almost 30% of the population has misalignment which is severe enough to benefit from some type of orthodontic treatment. This type of treatment can take several months up to a few years to complete. The treatment typically involves dental braces or other appliances which slowly adjust the teeth and jaws to the desired location. If the alignment is severe enough, the orthodontist may perform jaw surgery. Treatment is usually during adolescence as bones are easier to move and adjust in children.
The modern science of orthodontics dates back to the mid-1800s. Up until the mid-1970s, braces involved wrapping metal around each tooth. With recent advancements in adhesive options, it is now possible to attach metal brackets directly to the teeth instead.
Upper and Lower Jaw Functional Expanders
Incorrectly positioned teeth or malocclusion treatments typically takes about one to three years to complete. When braces are used, the orthodontist slowly adjusts the braces every four to 10 weeks. There are numerous methods used to adjust for malocclusion. For patients who are still growing, there are various options for treating skeletal discrepancies. This treatment will either promote or restrict growth through the use of functional appliances, orthodontic headgear or a reverse pull facemask. Most orthodontic work begins during the teenage years before the skeletal growth is completed. If skeletal growth is complete, jaw surgery may be an option to consider. In some cases, teeth are removed to aid in the orthodontic treatment.
Both fixed and removable appliances can be included in orthodontic therapy. A vast majority of orthodontic therapy uses fixed appliances. As an example, a fixed appliance includes braces which are bonded to the teeth with an adhesive. Fixed appliances have the potential for a greater mechanical control over the teeth. In addition, there are improved outcomes with the use of fixed appliances.
Fixed appliances are often used to rotate teeth, adjust multiple teeth, change the angle of teeth or change the position of the tooth’s root. Fixed appliances are not a good option for the patients with poor oral hygiene as it can result in decalcification, tooth decay and other serious issues. Fixed appliances are also not a good option for patients who aren’t motivated as treatment lasts can last months and even years. Patients need to be disciplined to maintain good oral hygiene during the entire treatment.
There are multiple specialty areas which are recognized in dentistry, however, orthodontics was the first recognized specialty. The American Dental Association recognized orthodontics as a specialty area in the early 1950s.
There are numerous colleges and universities in the United States who offer orthodontic programs. Entrance into an accredited orthodontics program is extremely competitive and students must first complete dental school.
The orthodontic program typically lasts for two to three years. Before graduating, students are required to complete the written American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) exam. This exam includes both a written exam and a clinical exam. The written exam is comprehensive and tests the applicant's knowledge of basic sciences and clinical concepts. The clinical exam includes a Board Case Oral Examination (BCOE), a Case Report Examination (CRE) and a Case Report Oral Examination (CROE). Once the orthodontist is certified, they must renew their certification every 10 years.