What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics means "straightening teeth", but it should more properly be called "Dental Orthopedics" which means "straightening teeth and bones." Orthodontics is specifically concerned with diagnosing and treating tooth misalignment and irregularity in the jaw area.  Initially, orthodontic treatments were geared toward the treatment of teens and pre-teens, but these days around 30 percent of orthodontic patients are adults.

There are many advantages to well-aligned teeth, including easier cleaning, better oral hygiene, clearer speech and a more pleasant smile.  Though orthodontic treatment can be effective at any age, the American Dental Association suggests that an orthodontic assessment should be routinely performed around the age of seven, earlier if problems are evident.  The earlier orthodontic treatment begins, the more quickly the problem can be successfully resolved.

Who performs orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment requires special training. Dr. Rathke has been performing orthodontics for more than 30 years; however, for some orthodontic situations, Dr. Rathke may recommend referral to an orthodontic specialist.

What problems can be treated with orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a versatile branch of dentistry that can be used alone, or in combination with oral and maxillofacial surgery or cosmetic dentistry.

Here are some of the common conditions treated with orthodontics:

  • Anteroposterior deviations – The discrepancy in position between a pair of closed jaws is known as an anteroposterior discrepancy or deviation (or just "AP".) An example of such a discrepancy would be an overbite (where the upper teeth are further forward than the lower teeth), or an underbite (where the lower teeth are further forward then the upper teeth).
  • Overcrowding – Overcrowding is a common orthodontic problem.  It occurs when there is an insufficient space for the adult teeth.
  • Aesthetic problems – A beautiful straight smile may be marred by a single misaligned tooth. This tooth can often be realigned with ease and accuracy. 
  • Spacing - the teeth don't properly touch one another.

Orthodontic Solutions

Orthodontics is a technologically advanced field which offers many sophisticated solutions to malocclusions and other cosmetic problems.  Dr. Rathke will generally perform a visual examination, panoramic and cephalometric X-rays, and study models (bite impressions) in order to assess the exact nature of the discrepancy.

When a diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of orthodontic treatment options available.

Here is an overview of some of the most common treatments:

  • Fixed orthodontic (traditional) braces – A metal or ceramic dental base (bracket) is affixed to each tooth, and an orthodontic archwire is inserted through each bracket.  The teeth are then gradually moved into proper alignment by regularly adjusting the wire.  When the desired results are achieved, the fixed dental braces are completely removed.
  • Invisalign® – This is a newer, removable type of dental aligner that is completely transparent.  Invisalign® does not interfere with eating because of its removable nature, and mechanically works in the same way as the traditional metal dental braces. It can be faster than treating with braces.
  • Removable appliances – There are a wide range of removable appliances commonly used in orthodontics, including functional appliances that use the patient's own muscles to correct their bite, active appliances that have adjustment screws that the patients themselves activate, facemasks which are used to correct an underbite, and many others. Sometimes, these are used to solve problems that are difficult to handle with either fixed appliances or Invisalign® alone.

If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontics, please contact our office.