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What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry specialising in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems related to the alignment of teeth and jaws.

The technical term for these problems is malocclusion, which literally means bad bite.

Studies have shown that three out of four children can have a developing malocclusion, such as poor bite, crooked teeth or poor mouth habits.

Orthodontic treatment involves the design and use of corrective appliances (such as plates, braces, headgears and functional appliances) to bring the teeth and jaws into proper alignment.

People generally have orthodontic treatment to improve the appearance, health and function of their teeth but recent developments and the evolution of older techniques have facilitated dramatic change in the management of facial growth and jaw development (dentofacial orthopaedics). Modern techniques can be employed that eliminate the need for teeth to be removed, a concern patients can have.

When to start orthodontic treatment

Orthodontic treatment can commence anytime from 2 ½ years of age when most of the primary teeth have erupted.

Lots can be done from an early age – sucking habits, head posture, mouth breathing and snoring can all be intercepted. Often, co-operative management with a speech pathologist can be highly beneficial.

If left until 12 – 14 years of age, the problems can become fully entrenched and almost impossible to correct. By this stage it may be only dental corrections that can be made, often with unsatisfactory long-term outcomes.

The major priority is recognition that there are developing problems right from that early age, with a skilled professional able to pick up the issues at the first examination.

Most orthodontic problems are apparent by the age of seven, when the main adult front teeth have erupted. However, 

your dentist may detect an orthodontic problem much earlier. 

Early treatment can often prevent more serious problems from developing or make treatment at a later age shorter and less complicated. Early treatment may also achieve results that are not possible once the face and jaws have stopped growing.

In the past, orthodontic treatment was generally restricted to children. However, the basic process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age and orthodontic treatment is also successful for adults. Adults may also experience flow-on issues, such as snoring or jaw pain. While there are many cosmetic reasons for adults to seek orthodontic treatment, there are a number of genera

l health issues that can be positively influenced with the right treatment so it is wise for adults to also consider orthodontic treatment as an option in their future.