Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that studies the development, diagnosis, prevention and correction of dental irregularities and malocclusions (uneven bites) in order to enhance functionality and personal appearance.
An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in detecting irregular positioning or alignment of the teeth or jaws and prescribes fixed or removable corrective appliances.
Some causes of jaw development and alignment problems
- Thumb sucking as a child
- Accidents or trauma
- Premature loss of a primary tooth
- Constantly pressing the tongue against the teeth
- Mouth breathing
Orthodontics can correct the following main problems:
- protrusion of the upper or lower jaw
- receding chin
- "gummy smile" (excessive exposure of gum tissue above the upper teeth when smiling)
- excessive spacing between the teeth, or overlapping teeth
- mouth that won't close properly, even at rest
- elongated face
- asymmetric mouth
- cleft palate
Crooked teeth or misaligned jaws can lead to functional problems. Overlapping teeth are difficult to clean. Such problems may lead to tooth decay and gum disease, or, in extreme cases, to tooth loss.
Misaligned teeth and jaws that do not fit together properly may result in inefficient chewing, excessive wear of tooth surfaces, and pain in the jaw, head, neck or face. They also have an impact on one’s self-esteem.