What is an Orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in diagnosing and treating malocclusions, which are mis-alignments of the teeth, jaws, or both. Following dental school, an orthodontist completes 2-3 years of full-time additional training under the direct supervision of experienced orthodontists. If they pass the training, they receive a specialty certificate in orthodontics. In many orthodontic training programs, students can also earn a master's degree (Master of Science - MS; Master of Dental Science - MDS, Master of Science in Dentistry - MSD, Master of Medical Science - MMSc or Master of Public Health - MPH) in addition to a specialty certificate.
The orthodontist will align the teeth with respect to the surrounding soft tissues, with or without movement of the underlying bones, which can be moved either through growth modification in children or jaw surgery in adults. Several appliances are utilized for growth modification; including functional appliances, headgear, and facemasks. These "orthopedic appliances" may influence the development of an adolescent's profile and give an improved aesthetic and functional result.
One of the most common situations leading to orthodontic treatment is crowding of the teeth. In this situation, there is insufficient room for the normal complement of adult teeth, which can sometimes result in teeth being extracted. Crowding of teeth is recognised as an affliction that stems in part from a modern western lifestyle. We do not know for sure whether it is due to the consistency of western diets; a result of mouthbreathing; or the result of an early loss of deciduous (milk, baby) teeth due to decay. It is also possible that Homo sapiens have evolved smaller jaws without a reduction in the number of teeth they will house happening at the same time. Orthodontics is not always for aesthetic purposes. Braces may be prescribed in cases of so-called "overbite" to help prevent teeth being knocked out in an accident, for example, hockey or skating.
Much has been made in the media of links between tooth extraction and temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction (problems, including clicking and jamming, of the jaw joint). No research has shown a definitive link between orthodontic treatment, extraction of teeth and jaw joint problems. Most temporo-mandibular joint problems are multifactorial in origin (that is having a number of possible etiologic agents).