What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is one of many dental specialties.  The word “orthodontics” is derived from the Greek words orthos, meaning proper or straight and odons meaning teeth.  Orthodontics is specifically concerned with diagnosing and treating tooth misalignment and irregularity in the jaw area.  Initially, orthodontic treatments were geared toward the treatment of teenagers and children, but these days a high percentage of orthodontic patients are adults.

There are many advantages to well-aligned teeth, including easier cleaning, better oral hygiene, a more comfortable and effective bite and a more pleasant smile.  Though orthodontic treatment can be effective at any age, the American Dental Association suggests that an orthodontic assessment should be performed around the age of seven.  The earlier orthodontic treatment begins, the more quickly the problem can be successfully resolved. Dr Cotter is commited to avoiding extractions where at all possible.

What problems can be treated with orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a versatile branch of dentistry that can be used alone, or in combination with maxillofacial or cosmetic dentistry to achieve the very best results.

Here are some of the common conditions treated with orthodontics:

  • Bite discrepancies – The discrepancy between a pair of closed jaws is known as an anteroposterior discrepancy or deviation.  An example of such a discrepancy would be an overjet (where the upper teeth are further forward than the lower teeth) such that the teeth are too prominent. Other problems might include and "underbite" where the teeth bite the "wrong way around" or and "openbite" where the teeth do not meet at the front.

  • Overcrowding – Overcrowding is a common orthodontic problem.  It occurs when there is an insufficient space for the normal growth and development of adult teeth. The teeth then grow rotated, displaced or remain unerupted.

  • Aesthetic problems – A beautiful straight smile may be marred by a single misaligned tooth. This tooth can be realigned with ease and accuracy by the orthodontist.  Alternatively, orthodontists can also work to reshape and restructure the lips, jaw or the face.

Orthodontic Solutions

Orthodontics is a technologically advanced field which offers many sophisticated solutions to malocclusions ("crooked teeth") and other bite problems.  Dr Cotter will generally perform a clinical examination, special x-rays and study models (bite impressions) in order to assess the exact nature of the discrepancy.

When a diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of orthodontic treatment options available and Dr Cotter will be delighted to spend time with you discussing the alternatives.

Here is an overview of some of the most common treatments:

  • Fixed orthodontic braces – A metal or ceramic dental base is affixed to each tooth, and a special wire is inserted through each base.  The orthodontist is able to gradually train the teeth into proper alignment by regularly adjusting the wire.  When the desired results are achieved, the fixed dental braces are completely removed. Modern fixed-on braces are smaller and less noticable than ever before. Ceramic or "clear" braces are another option.
  • Functional Appliances - These are a special category of braces which are used to guide or maximise jaw and tooth growth in order to provide a more harmonious facial and dental result. Patients need to be actively growing for the best results.
  • Removable appliances – There are a wide range of removable appliances commonly used in orthodontics. Although these may be "removable", consistent wear is essential for the optimal result!

  • Invisalign® – This is a newer, removable type of dental aligner that is completely transparent.  Invisalign® does not interfere with eating because of its removable nature, and mechanically works in the same way as the traditional metal dental braces.  Not all patients are candidates for Invisalign®.

If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontics, please contact our practice.