Wellness & Fitness

Understanding the field of orthodontics


A woman smiles with orthodontic accessories. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

In today’s image-conscious world, a person’s appearance is one of the first things to be noticed especially when meeting someone for the first time. It is said that first impressions last, and when it is accompanied by a smile, it is likely to last longer.

It is imperative that one has a straighter and brighter smile not just to impress the people that they meet but also to boost their self-esteem and confidence.

Ongoing research on tooth alignment and enamel colour continues to reveal that most people and notably teenagers and young adults, who either had stained, crowded or what would be considered as an unpleasant smile, were found to be shy, less confident and more conscious about how they look. This is where orthodontic treatment can help to correct some of these issues.

The term orthodontics is not commonly used when reference is being made to oral health care and treatment, as this is generally understood to be the work of a dentist. By definition, Orthodontics is a dentistry specialty that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of mal-positioned teeth and jaws and misaligned bite patterns. While all orthodontists are dentists, not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.

When most people seek orthodontic treatment, their main goal is usually to have straight teeth. While this is achievable, it is not the only element required to ensure optimal health and function when it comes to your oral health. Orthodontic treatment, therefore, addresses all oral health issues that will keep your teeth and gums healthy for longer.

To achieve these goals, the orthodontist uses a wide range of medical dental devices, including headgear, plates, and braces. The treatment may take several months to a few years and may include the use of appliances such as dental braces to adjust tooth position and jaw alignment. Orthodontists advise that patients begin treatment when one is younger as it is easier for pre-adult bones to be adjusted.

Most importantly, good oral hygiene practices must be observed during treatment or while using orthodontic devices as there is an additional risk of food getting stuck either on the device or teeth. Without good oral hygiene practices, there is a risk of tooth decay during treatment.

Orthodontists also recommend that one should avoid food and drink that can lead to tooth decay to enable them undergo treatment successfully and enjoy optimal oral health and function.