Dental Guides

What Does An Orthodontist Do

Having a jaw that isn't properly aligned or teeth that are crooked can make it challenging to clean your teeth properly. And apart from this perhaps affecting your appearance and self-confidence, it also means that you risk experiencing tooth decay and developing periodontal disease sooner rather than later.

If this applies to you, you may need to visit an orthodontist, a specialist in straightening misaligned teeth and jaws. Most orthodontists spend the required four years in dental school, followed by additional training.

Do You Need An Orthodontist?

An orthodontist can advise whether you need any specialized treatment based on your dental history, a thorough oral exam, and photographs and X-rays of your mouth. However, orthodontic treatment may be recommended if you have:

* An overbite or underbite

* An open bite or crossbite

* Gaps between teeth or teeth too close together

How Does the Treatment Work?

Teeth can be moved and muscles retrained by the use of a variety of removable or fixed devices in the mouth. The device used will depend on how severe your problem is, although all work in the same way by applying gentle pressure to your jaws or teeth.

Some Fixed Devices


A combination of bands, wires or brackets is used to create a brace, the most common type of fixed appliance. It can take anywhere from a couple of months to several years to see the desired results, and your brace will typically need to be adjusted slightly every month. The brace applies pressure to your teeth, which will then straighten over time, and can drastically alter your appearance. Gone are the rather ugly and noticeable metal braces, and today they come in a clear style as well as a variety of bright colors, making them more appealing to children.

Special Fixed Appliances

Your orthodontist may recommend one of these as a last resort, and although they aren't comfortable while you are eating, they can help to control negative behaviors such as tongue thrusting or thumb sucking.

Fixed Space Maintainers

If you have prematurely lost a baby tooth and the permanent tooth hasn't yet taken its place, these devices use wire and a band to keep the gap between teeth open.

Some Removable Appliances


More orthodontists and patients are appreciating the flexibility of aligners to move teeth, as an alternative to braces. With aligners you'll need to remove them for flossing, brushing and eating and they are almost invisible.

Removable Space Maintainers

The wire or plastic branches help to keep open the gap between teeth and this device is used in the same way as a fixed maintainer.

Jaw Repositioning Appliances

Wearing one on the lower or upper jaw can help with a temporomandibular joint disorder and train the jaw to close in a more aligned position.

Lip and Cheek Bumpers

Wearing this appliance can help you to relieve the pressure caused by cheeks or lips being too close to the teeth.

Palatal Expander

This device is worn over the roof of the mouth and can help in widening the arch in the upper jaw.

Removable Retainers

If you need help to stop thumb sucking, this device can help. It also stops your teeth from moving back to their previous and unwanted position.


The back teeth are held in place with this appliance which uses a strap placed around the head and attached to a wire, while the front teeth are pulled back into the desired position.

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