An Orthodontist is a specialist that corrects a malocclusion or “bad bite”, involving teeth that are crowded or crooked. Orthodontists attend dental school, then complete an additional two to three years of education in an accredited orthodontic residency program. Orthodontists are also specialist in dento-facial orthopedics—this signifies that an orthodontist has expertise not only in aligning teeth, but also in the correcting the alignment of the jaw. A person may seek the services of an orthodontist for cosmetic reasons as well as health reasons.

Reasons for orthodontic treatment vary greatly—often problems that affect the normal development of teeth is hereditary. Other times the development problems occur for no apparent reason. A third reason is when a person’s teeth and jaw are damaged in an accident or as a result of activities such as thumb sucking. In children, crooked or abnormally arranged teeth are no usually an immediate health problem, but may later affect the development of the child’s teeth, mouth, and jaw. In severe cases, such abnormal development can affect a child’s physical appearance as they grow.

Here are some of the common reasons why a patient is referred to an orthodontist:

  • Protruding upper front teeth—one of the most common reasons for needing orthodontic treatment, particularly as the teeth may be more prone to damage during falls or contact sports.
  • Crowding—people with narrow jaws often lack enough space for their teeth, resulting in crowding.
  • Impacted teeth—an adult tooth that is unable to come in on its own. Usually requires surgical assistance from an orthodontist or oral surgeon.
  • Asymmetrical teeth—in some people, the center of the upper and lower teeth do not match, giving their teeth an asymmetrical or crooked appearance.
  • Deep bite—the upper teeth cover too much of the lower teeth.
  • Anterior cross bite—the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth.
  • Open bite—the upper and lower front teeth do not meet when the mouth is closed; an open bite often occurs as a result of prolonged thumb sucking.

Malocclusions often become noticeable between the ages of 6 and 12, as the child’s permanent teeth come in. Orthodontic treatment usually begins between the ages of 8 and 14. Treatment that begins while a child is growing helps produce optimal results. In severe cases of malocclusion treatment may begin at an even younger age. Children should have an orthodontic consult no later than the age of 8. By then they have a mix of primary teeth and permanent teeth. Your child’s dentist can spot problems with emerging teeth and jaw growth early on, while the primary teeth are present. This is yet another reason why regular dental examinations are so important.

Our next blog is for those of you wondering if your child should be using fluoridated toothpaste.

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