Orthodontics is the first specialty of dentistry that specializes in treating patients with improper positioning of teeth when the mouth is closed (malocclusion), which results in an improper bite. Crooked teeth & teeth that do not fit together correctly are harder to keep clean, are at risk of being lost early due to tooth decay and periodontal disease. Teeth that are crooked or not in the right place can also detract from one’s appearance.
A specialist in this field is called an orthodontist. Orthodontists receive two or more years of education beyond their four years in dental school in an ADA-approved orthodontic training program. An orthodontist uses a range of medical dental devices to help in:
- Closing wide gaps between the teeth
- Straightening crooked teeth
- To improve speech or eating (oral function)
- To improve the long-term health of gums and teeth
- To prevent long-term excessive wear or trauma (of the teeth)
- Treating an improper bite
Orthodontics used to be called orthodontia – the word comes from the Greek orthos, meaning “straight, perfect or proper”, and dontos, which means “teeth”.
A retainer is an orthodontic appliance (usually removable) that is supposed to be worn after your orthodontist removes
your braces. When braces are removed, the teeth have a tendency to want to return back to their original positions. Retainers prevent this from happening.
Since the purpose of retainers is to prevent your teeth from shifting back into their original position, they should be worn
at least until your jawbone and gums have had time to stabilize around your newly-aligned teeth. Many orthodontists recommend that children and teenagers wear their retainers until their early or mid-20s – until all the permanent teeth have come in and the jaw stops growing.