What is Orthodontics?

Although you’ve most likely heard the term orthodontics before, there’s a pretty good chance you aren’t sure what it actually encompasses, or what an orthodontist really does. Even orthodontic patients can have trouble expanding on the topic in any meaningful way! Here at Brodsky Orthodontics, it’s important to us that our patients be well-informed on what we can do for you and your family. When you know more about orthodontic care, you can be a more active participant in your own, so we’ve created this guide to help you understand exactly what orthodontics is and all the many ways it can benefit you and your smile.

Orthodontics explained

If you picture general dentistry as an umbrella, then orthodontics is a dental specialty that falls underneath it. Orthodontists focus on correcting teeth and jaws that are improperly positioned, and they have to learn a lot about orthodontic care before they’re able to provide it. After finishing college and then completing dental school, they’ll go on to study for two or more years in an ADA-approved orthodontic training program. By the time they can hang an “orthodontist” sign on their door, they have an immense knowledge of the way teeth and jaws develop, and how to correct any issues with that development.

They may be the first thing you think of, but cosmetic issues aren’t the only thing orthodontics can address. There are actually many dental problems orthodontists can treat. These treatments often lead to better oral health overall. For example, teeth that are crooked may detract from your appearance, but the more important issue is how hard they can make it to keep your teeth and gums clean and free from bacteria. This puts your teeth at risk for problems like tooth decay and periodontal disease, and the misalignment can cause extra stress on the chewing muscles that may lead to headaches, TMJ syndrome, or neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Is orthodontic treatment right for you?

An experienced orthodontist like us will use a variety of different diagnostic tools to determine if orthodontic treatment could be beneficial to you. These tools include:

  • a full medical and dental health history
  • a clinical exam
  • plaster models of your teeth
  • special X-rays and photographs

After reviewing these items, your orthodontist will sit down with you and discuss which, if any, orthodontic treatment would be right for you. From there, a customized treatment plan will be developed based on your specific needs and goals.

Many common dental issues benefit from orthodontics. If you have any of the following problems, you could be a good candidate for orthodontic treatment, and should contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation.

  • Overbite — the upper front teeth lie too far forward and stick out over the lower teeth.
  • Underbite — a “bulldog” appearance, where the lower teeth are too far forward or the upper teeth are too far back.
  • Crossbite — in normal bites, the upper teeth will be out over the top of the lower teeth when biting down normally. With a crossbite, this does not happen. There are a few different types of crossbites, depending on where the upper teeth fall in relation to the lower ones.
  • Open bite — there’s a space between the biting surfaces of the front or side teeth when the back teeth bite together.
  • Misplaced midline — the center of the upper front teeth doesn’t line up with the center of the lower front teeth.
  • Spacing issues — there are gaps in between the teeth as a result of missing teeth or teeth that don’t “fill up” the mouth.
  • Crowding issues — there are too many teeth for the dental ridge to accommodate

Orthodontic treatment options

There are several different types of orthodontic appliances that can be used to help move the teeth into more desirable positions. These can be fixed or removable appliances, and can also retrain the muscles of and affect the growth of the jaws. Generally, orthodontic appliances work by placing gentle, continuous pressure on the teeth and jaws. The severity of your problem will be the biggest deciding factor in which orthodontic approach is likely to be the most effective.

Portrait of modern happy teen school girl with dental braces glasses bag backpack headphones and tablet.

Fixed appliances

Braces: Traditional braces are the most common and well-known orthodontic appliance. We fix bands around the teeth to be used as anchors, and bond brackets to the front of the tooth. Archwires are then passed through the brackets and attached to the bands. Through regular tightening of the archwire, usually every 8 weeks, this tension on the teeth will begin to gradually move them into their new and proper position. This can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

In recent years, braces have made many improvements, and are now smaller, lighter, and far less obvious than they used to be. They can also come in bright colors for kids, as well as clear ceramic braces, which many of our adult patients love and prefer. There are even some braces that are made to put behind the teeth, like InBrace, so you can have the efficiency of traditional braces with the aesthetics of clear aligners.

Fixed space maintainers: Baby teeth can be lost prematurely sometimes. In order to keep the remaining teeth from crowding the empty space, orthodontists can fit a customized space maintainer, or spacer, to keep the space open until the permanent tooth erupts. These work by attaching a band to the tooth next to the empty space, with a wire extending to the tooth on the other side of the space.

Removable appliances

Aligners: Clear aligners, like those that are part of the Invisalign system, are currently the most popular alternative to traditional braces for teens and adults. These aligners move teeth the same way fixed appliances do, but do so digitally and more efficiently than traditional braces.  Also, aligners eliminate the hassle and restrictions that can come with metal wires and brackets. Add in their virtual invisibility and easy removability, and it’s not hard to see why more and more orthodontists are using them with patients who want an effective but discreet orthodontic option!

Jaw repositioning appliances: Sometimes called splints, these devices can be worn on either the top or lower jaw, and they help train the jaw to close in a more favorable position.

Palatal expander: This device widens the arch of the upper jaw using a plastic plate that fits over the roof of the mouth. Outward pressure is applied to the plate by screws, and this forces the joints in the bones of the palate to open lengthwise, widening the palatal area in the process.

Removable retainers: These tend to be the most recognizable removable appliance. Worn on the roof of the mouth after orthodontic treatment has been completed, these devices keep teeth straight by preventing them from shifting back to their previous position.

Headgear: Headgear slows down the growth of the upper jaw, and holds the back teeth in place by placing a strap around the back of the head attached to a metal wire in front.

Three teenage girls laughing with arms over each other's shoulders

Your orthodontic experience with Brodsky Orthodontics

Investing in a beautiful and healthy smile can positively impact your life in many ways, from the obvious cosmetic benefits to improved overall health. Brodsky Orthodontics is a high-tech, highly qualified orthodontic practice with a personal touch. We don’t treat patients here – we treat individuals! We offer experienced orthodontic care in a fun environment, and we’d love to talk with you about whether you’re a candidate for a personal orthodontic treatment plan with us.   If you’re in Lakewood or the Greater Long Beach area, and are wondering what orthodontics could offer you or your family, get in touch today and schedule a complimentary consultation to find out more. A better smile could be just around the corner with Brodsky Orthodontics!