What is Orthodontics (or Orthodontic Treatment)? Part 1

Orthodontics, formerly known as orthodontia – comes from the Greek word orthos, meaning “straight, perfect or proper” and dontos, meaning “teeth”.

Orthodontics is a specialized field of dentistry; treating patients with malocclusion (improper positioning of the teeth when the mouth is closed), which results in an improper bite. Orthodontics also includes treating and controlling various aspects of facial growth (dentofacial orthopedics) and the shape and development of the jaw. An orthodontics specialist is called an orthodontist. Orthodontics also includes cosmetic dentistry; when the patient’s desire is to improve his or her appearance. Dr. Tara Gostovich is an orthodontic specialist, with offices in Englishtown and Malboro, NJ.

An orthodontist utilizes various medical dental devices, including headgear, braces, plates, etc. to facilitate:

▪ Closing gaps between the teeth

▪ Treating an improper bite

▪ Straightening crooked teeth

▪ Making sure the tips (the bottoms) of the teeth are properly aligned

▪ Preventing long-term excessive wear or damage of the teeth

▪ Improving speech or eating (oral function)

▪ Improving the long-term health of gums and teeth

What is malocclusion?

Malocclusion quite literally means bad bite. For some children, their jaws and teeth do not develop properly. Malocclusion refers to misaligned, crooked teeth and a fault in regards to the relationship between the two dental arches (the bottom and top set of teeth). Malocclusion may develop because of injury or trauma to the teeth or facial bones, frequent thumb sucking, or for unknown reasons.

Thumb sucking (or finger sucking) can result in localized deformation of the teeth and the supporting jaw bone. To restore a natural formation, the thumb sucking habit MUST be addressed and stopped.

In most cases, malocclusions don’t affect physical health; since malocclusion is not a disease, but rather, a variation in the normal position of the teeth. However, it could affect the shape of a person’s face and the appearance of their teeth, which can lead to embarrassment, a lack of self-confidence, and sometimes, even depression. Severe malocclusion may affect a person’s speech, eating, and overall oral health.

People may need to seek orthodontic treatment for several different reasons:

▪ Protruding front teeth – Orthodontic treatment not only improves the patient’s appearance, but also protects the teeth from damage; people with protruding front teeth are more likely to injure them in sports, falling down, etc.

▪ Crowding of the teeth – If the patient’s jaw is narrow, there may not be enough space for all of the teeth. In such cases the orthodontist may have to remove one or more teeth to make room for the others.

▪ Impacted teeth – As the adult teeth come through, they are not in the proper position.

▪ Asymmetrical teeth – The upper and lower teeth do not match, especially when the mouth is closed but the teeth are showing.

▪ Deep bite (overbite) – When the teeth are clenched, the upper ones come down over the lower ones too much.

▪ Reverse bite – When the teeth are clenched, the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones.

▪ Open bite – When the teeth are clenched, there is an opening between the upper and lower teeth.

▪ Underbite – The upper teeth are too far back, or the lower teeth are too far forward (giving the person a “bulldog-like” appearance).

▪ Crossbite – At least one of the upper teeth does not come down slightly in front of the lower teeth when the teeth are clenched; they are too near the cheek or the tongue.

▪ Spacing – There are gaps or spaces between the teeth, either because a tooth is missing, or the teeth simply do not fill the mouth (this is the opposite of crowding).

Want to learn more? Be sure to read Part 2 of this informative article on orthodontics.