What does an orthodontist do?


Quick Answer

An orthodontist is a dentist who specializes in straightening a patient's teeth with braces, headgear, plates and other dental appliances. Orthodontists also control and treat a wide variety of facial growths, as well as working with the way that the human jaw develops.

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Full Answer

Orthodontists study orthodontics, which is the practice of treating improperly positioned teeth. An orthodontist can also specialize in cosmetic dentistry for a patient who desires to improve the appearance of his smile or jaw.

Oral problems that an orthodontist focuses on include gaps between the teeth, misaligned tips of the teeth, crooked teeth, improper bites, the prevention of trauma of the teeth and extensive wear on the teeth. A patient might also be experiencing problems with eating, speaking or the health of the teeth and gums. Before determining proper treatment, an orthodontist must first perform a clinical examination, take x-rays and create a model of the patient's teeth using plaster.

An individual who needs orthodontic treatment typically waits until his adult teeth have broken through and have started to develop, which usually happens around age 12 or 13. There are exceptions to this if the patient is a child who has a cleft lip and palate and has yet to develop his adult teeth. There are also orthodontists who begin treatment with braces on children before their adolescent years.

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