Like doctors, dentists too can choose to further their personal and professional understanding of specific aspects of their craft through specialization. In the field of dental medicine, there are currently nine dental specialties formally recognized by the American Dental Association: Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, and finally, Orthodontics.
What is an Orthodontist?
Of these nine recognized dental specialties, orthodontics is probably one of the most widely known amongst the general public. Chances are you have either been treated with dental braces or know someone who has. Braces and other therapies that address the problem of malocclusion, or crooked teeth, are the domain of dentists who have undergone extensive additional training and instruction in order to master the art of diagnosing, preventing, and correcting malocclusion. Orthodontists also address any issues that arise from neuromuscular or skeletal abnormalities.
How are Orthodontists Trained?
Those who wish to become orthodontists must first complete their bachelor’s degree before entering an accredited dental program. Once accepted into dental school, candidates must then complete, on average, an additional four years of rigorous instruction in both dental and general medicine. For aspiring orthodontists, however, the journey is still not complete. Upon graduating from dental school, those who wish to practice orthodontics must specialize. Specialization typically entails another two to three years of intense training within a residency program. Finally, after approximately a decade of learning, training, and testing in institutional and clinical settings, the candidate is ready to become board certified. Only after passing both a written examination overseen by the American Board of Orthodontics and successfully treating and defending six real-life cases before a panel of ABO examiners does an aspiring orthodontist finally reach the conclusion of his lengthy educational training. As you can imagine, the journey to becoming a full-fledged orthodontist is difficult and demanding to prepare candidates for a critical role within the dental community.
Why are Orthodontists Important?
Orthodontists are the go-to specialists and practicing dental authorities on issues regarding dental malocclusion and neuromuscular or skeletal abnormalities arising in the jaw and facial structures. Do you have crooked, malformed, or misaligned teeth? You should see an orthodontist. Do you suffer from a severe underbite, overbite, crossbite, or any bite misalignment that may be interfering with daily life? An orthodontist can help. Simply put, orthodontists specialize in treating patients with improper positioning of teeth. Whether as a result of an unbalanced bite, crooked or missing teeth, disease, or trauma, an orthodontist can help set your teeth back into their proper position and, in the process, help to alleviate or completely eliminate a whole host of dental and oral health issues caused by malocclusion.
10 Reasons to Seek an Orthodontist
1. Malocclusion (crooked or misaligned teeth)
Malocclusion is the imperfect or improper positioning of teeth when a patient’s mouth is completely closed. Malocclusion is very, very common. Very few people today are born with a perfect set of teeth. Orthodontists can treat both mild and severe cases of malocclusion and help patients readjust the positioning of their teeth to improve aesthetics and also promote health.
2. Overbite or Underbite
Most individuals naturally have a slight overbite. However, when an overbite becomes too pronounced, or when the upper teeth significantly overlap the bottom set of teeth, many problems can occur. Those with a pronounced overbite may suffer from uneven or excessive teeth wearing, aesthetic concerns, and in some cases, jaw pain.
An underbite is the opposite of an overbite. Those who suffer from an underbite, or prognathism, typically have a pronounced lower jaw with teeth that overlap their upper arch counterparts. Like an overbite, an underbite can severely hamper a patient’s ability to speak, eat, and even sleep well. Prognathism can also have a social and aesthetic impact that can harm a patient’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing.
3. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) or Jaw Pain or Stiffness
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain, often simply called jaw pain, is a misunderstood affliction that affects a large number of individuals. Characterized by jaw pain and stiffness, the term TMJ disorder is typically used to refer to a cluster of similar symptoms that are related to the TMJ. The pain and stiffness of the TMJ are often caused by a misaligned bite, malocclusion, or a combination of both. Correcting mouth and jaw imbalances can often alleviate or completely cure otherwise difficult cases of the disorder.
4. Speech Impediments
Dental and maxillofacial imbalances can adversely affect a patient’s ability to enunciate and communicate clearly and effectively. Along with aesthetic concerns, this can be particularly frustrating when difficulties are caused by misalignment.
5. Problems with Mastication (Chewing)
Crooked and misaligned teeth and jaw structures can make the simple act of chewing, biting, and eating incredibly difficult. Misaligned and crooked teeth are particularly susceptible to collecting unwanted food debris, which leads to tooth decay and halitosis (bad breath).
6. Tooth Decay
Crooked teeth create additional pockets and gaps in between that can be difficult to clean properly and which collect food debris easily. These pockets and gaps become breeding grounds for all manner of destructive microbes. Straight teeth allow for easier cleaning and reduce the surface area available for plaque and bacteria to attach and breed.
7. Gum Disease
Severely misaligned and crooked teeth can also damage the gums and contribute to periodontal disease. Crowded and crooked teeth create pockets of difficult to clean spaces that cannot be reached with a toothbrush and floss. These pockets trap bacteria that eats away at your teeth and enamel, and can also infect your gums leading to periodontal disease. In rare cases, the bacteria responsible for periodontal disease can actually damage your heart.
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a common condition in which patients, often while fast asleep, unconsciously or unknowingly grind or clench their teeth. This can cause or contribute to a variety of dental issues including massive tooth wear, sleep apnea, and TMJ pain. Bruxism can, however, be treated with orthotics provided by an orthodontist. Braces, nightguards, and other custom implements can be fabricated for each patient to directly address their bruxism.
9. Excessive Tooth Wear
Excessive wear of teeth is most often caused by a misalignment of either a patient’s teeth or a misalignment of a patient’s bite. Proper orthodontic care can address both those issues, thus reducing tooth wear and prolonging the natural life and beauty of a patient’s teeth.
10. Sleep Apnea or Excessive Snoring
Do you suffer from sleep apnea or loud, excessive snoring? It could be caused by a misalignment of the jaw or malocclusion of the teeth. Orthodontists specialize in the proper positioning of teeth and bite and can help treat cases of apnea and loud snoring that is caused by misalignment of teeth or jaw.
Are you looking for an orthodontist or considering braces for you or a family member? Look no further than Willow Pass Dental Care. We provide a wide range of holistic family dental care, TMD treatment therapies, in a friendly and professional environment you can call home. Schedule an appointment today by calling us at 925-326-6116 or complete the form below.