About Orthodontics

Orthodontics is more than just braces. There are numerous aspects to successful orthodontic treatment that can improve facial balance and aesthetics along with improved function and give you the beautiful smile that you deserve.

What is Orthodontics

Orthodontics is the area of dentistry including the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion” which means “bad bite”.

The full name of the specialty is “Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics”. The Orthodontics part refers to the alignment and the teeth and the fit of the bite while the Dentofacial Orthopedics part refers to the guidance of the growth of the jaws and face for facial balance and well-fitting jaws.

Just as there are specialties in medicine such as cardiology for your heart or dermatology for your skin, there are specialties in dentistry such as periodontics for your gums or orthodontics for your face and smile. For simplicity, orthodontics is used to describe the specialty.

Who is a Specialist in Orthodontics?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities.

Orthodontists must first attend a college or university for 2 to 4 years for pre-dentistry. This is followed by a four-year graduate program at a dental school in a university accredited by the Canadian Dental Association. They must then complete an additional two to three-year residency program in advanced orthodontic education at an institution accredited by the Canadian Dental Association.

This advanced training includes studies in genetics, embryology, human growth and development, and biophysics. Only dentists with this advanced specialty education can present themselves as a specialist in orthodontics. The full description is actually “Specialist in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics” but as this is rather cumbersome, Specialist in Orthodontics or simply Orthodontist is generally used.

Just as you trust a cardiologist for care of your heart or a dermatologist for care of your skin you can trust an orthodontist for care of your face and smile.

Benefits Of Orthodontic Treatment

Many people consider orthodontic treatment because they see that the front teeth are crooked.

The orthodontist sees why the teeth are crooked and can provide treatment that will not only straighten the front teeth but also correct the underlying cause of the crooked teeth, improve the facial balance and provide a well-fitting, functional and stable bite.

Your bite is a complex biological system. Its components include up to 32 teeth, upper and lower jaws, gums, and multiple muscles that interact to make it all work. A well-fitting, functional and stable bite can improve biting, chewing and speaking and will decrease damage and wear to the teeth over a lifetime. Well-aligned teeth are easier to clean and can help prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and loss of bone support.

A very significant benefit of orthodontic treatment that doesn’t get much attention is the psychological lift patients receive when they can eat quietly and comfortably in public, or when they can smile confidently instead of covering their mouth when smiling. This can have a huge impact on self confidence and well being.

Who Can Provide Orthodontic Treatment?

Orthodontic treatment can be provided by any licenced dentist.

Although orthodontic treatment can be provided by a dentist, only Orthodontists are certified dentists that have additional training in an accredited Orthodontic Specialty Program.  These programs are a minimum of 2 to 3 years of intensive training on comprehensive analysis of the individual’s whole face and facial features, and their relationship to healthy teeth and jaws.  This allows Orthodontists to provide detailed diagnosis and treatment planning of crowded teeth, bad bites, and various jaw-size and functional discrepancies.  To be officially recognized as an Orthodontist in Canada, one must have successfully challenged the Royal College of Dentists of Canada Orthodontic Specialty Examination.

Due to the complex nature of orthodontics, while Family (or General) Dentists are permitted to perform orthodontic procedures, they often limit the treatment that they provide to cases of minor teeth alignment and/or minor spacing, if providing any orthodontic treatment at all. This is similar to other dental specialties such as Prosthodontics (crown and bridge) or Endodontics (root canals) which General Dentists can provide treatment for these areas up to the limit of what they feel their non-specialized competence allows.  For this reason, most General Dentists refer orthodontic treatment to Orthodontists, as Orthodontists are the recognized specialists that utilize their knowledge of growth and development to solve functional bite problems through alignment of the teeth and jaws.  Pediatric dentists (another dental specialty) may sometimes provide early interceptive orthodontic treatment to some degree, mostly to maintain space in preparation for future comprehensive orthodontic care.

You trust your heart to your Cardiologist, and your skin to your Dermatologist so it makes sense to trust your face and your smile to your Orthodontist; they are the tooth moving & facial experts, and that’s all they do all day & every day!

Do I Need A Referral?

You do not need a referral from a family (general) dentist in order to see an orthodontist.

Your family dentist is trained to notice problems with the development of your teeth and jaws. Normally your dentist would be responsible for detecting such problems and then referring you to an orthodontist if she or he does not feel competent to treat these problems herself or himself.

It is perfectly acceptable to obtain the name of an orthodontist from friends, family, co-workers or through online searches and contact the orthodontic office directly.

If you do not have a family dentist, an orthodontist will offer to refer you to one, as the basics of general dental health must be in place before orthodontic treatment should proceed.

If you are looking for an orthodontist in your area please go to the “Locate an Orthodontist” feature on this website.

At what age should treatment be done?

It is recommended that an orthodontic screening be done for children by the age of seven.

As soon as it is noticed by the parents or the family dentist that something seems wrong with the way the face is developing or how the teeth are growing in, it is advisable to see an orthodontist.

Early treatment, also known as interceptive treatment, is usually done around the age of seven or eight. There are occasions, however, when earlier treatment is warranted so if something seems wrong with development please see an orthodontist right away.

When early or interceptive treatment is done there is a significant probability that a second phase of treatment will be required during adolescence once all the adult teeth have grown into the mouth. Early treatment is generally intended to intercept a problem in development and get the growth of the jaws and the eruption of the adult teeth on more of a normal path.

Most orthodontic treatment is done during adolescence once the adult teeth have grown into the mouth. This is the typical orthodontic treatment that most people experience. In the past, braces were the most common method of orthodontic treatment for this group and now the option of Invisalign or similar clear aligner treatment is often an option.

Adult treatment has become an increasing portion of orthodontic treatment. Fully 25% of orthodontic patients are over the age of 21 years. Some adults have experienced relapse from earlier treatment during adolescence and some adults simply did not have the opportunity for orthodontic treatment when they were young.

There is no age limit for having orthodontic treatment. Although treatment might take a bit longer in older patients there are many patients even in their nineties that have had successful orthodontic treatment.

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