1. What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that specializes in diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for this problem is ‘malocclusion’ which means ‘bad bite’.
2. What is an Orthodontist?
All Orthodontists are dentists (4-5 years training) but not all dentists are Orthodontists.
The practice of Orthodontics requires 4 years training in Pakistan after completing BDS (4 years). In the UK the training required is of 5 years duration after completing 5 years BDS. There is further 3-4 years training to complete a PhD if one wants to become an academic/teacher in a University in the UK. Thus there is at least 8 years training in the UK if one wants to become a clinician and academic in Orthodontics. Only dentists who have successfully completed this required training may call themselves Orthodontists.
3. At what age can people have Orthodontic treatment?
Children and adults can both benefit from Orthodontics and there is no age limit as such. Children should be shown to an Orthodontist as early as 7 years for orthodontic screening as some orthodontic problems may be easier to correct if treated early.
4. What causes Orthodontic problems?
Many orthodontic problems are genetic but some are acquired. Genetic problems include extra or missing teeth, crowding of teeth, spaces between teeth and so on.
Acquired problems include, trauma (injury) to teeth, habits such as thumb sucking, premature loss of baby teeth.
5. What are the most commonly treated orthodontic problems?
Crowding: When the teeth are not properly aligned
Overjet: In normal cases, the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth horizontally by 2-3mm. Orthodontists refer to this horizontal overlap of lower front teeth by the upper front teeth as overjet. However, lay people will refer to it as an overbite. When this horizontal overlap is more than 3mm it is called increased overjet or increased overbite by the lay people. Patients with increased overjet will complain of ‘goofy teeth’, ‘protruded teeth’, ‘front teeth sticking out’ and ‘front teeth too prominent/forward’ etc.
Overbite: In normal cases, the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth vertically by 2-3mm. When this overlap is more than 2 mm it is called increased or deep overbite. In most of the cases, it has no aesthetic implications and the patient is not aware of this problem. However, in severe cases it can lead to damage of teeth and gums and can make biting on the front teeth painful.
Underbite or lower jaw protrusion: An underbite is when the lower teeth close in front of the upper teeth. It is also called Class III malocclusion.
Open bite: An open bite occurs when there is no contact between the upper and lower front teeth when biting down. This can make cutting food difficult on the front teeth. Sometimes, it is unaesthetic and also can cause ‘lisp’ in speech.
Crossbite: This problem occurs when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth (towards the tongue). This can occurs on both front and back teeth.