What Does an Orthodontist Do Exactly?

Updated on January 17, 2021

Most of us assume that an “orthodontist” is just a fancier way to say “dentist.” However, that’s not quite true.

While they share a lot of similarities, they are two separate professions. Orthodontia is a specialized type of dental care. If you’ve ever worn braces or other forms of teeth alignments, all of that falls into the realm of orthodontia. 

Are you wondering — what does an orthodontist do? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading for our full breakdown of orthodontia and what orthodontists do. We’ll even take a quick look at what setting up a treatment plan with orthodontists look like.

What’s an Orthodontist?

Before we dive into all the different treatments orthodontists provide as well as their training, let’s tackle the definition first.

In the simplest of terms, an orthodontist is a type of dentist that specializes in jaw and teeth alignment. They provide treatments to people who have misaligned teeth or folks who need an alignment correction of one sort or another.

For instance, people with improper bites or malocclusions will need the help of an orthodontist for a proper treatment plan.

How to Become an Orthodontist: School and Training

Orthodontists have a rather high average annual salary. However, in order to become a board-certified orthodontist, you’ll need to start with regular dental training. 

Traditionally, it’ll take you around 11 years to become an orthodontist. Starting with a 4-year bachelor’s degree, then four years of dental school. 

At that point, the majority of dentists stop here and start practicing. Yet, orthodontists will need to take additional classes with a two to three years of residency to become a licensed orthodontist. 

Basically, an orthodontist is a dentist with double the amount of training that a regular dentist would get. Their training is specialized, focusing on straightening teeth and fixing misalignment issues. 

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

At first, a patient would go to a general dentist if they have issues with their teeth. 

Once the dentist on hand realizes that their patient has a misalignment issue, they’re referred to an orthodontist.

The thing about crooked teeth or misalignment issues is that they can have negative effects on a person’s jaw health and even their self-confidence and mental health.

For example, having an improper bite can lead to a person’s teeth growing in a crooked way or get crowded with other teeth. This, in turn, can cause discomfort and pain. 

Even without a lurking potential medical issue in the future, a patient might just want to improve the appearance of their teeth. Proper orthodontists will provide these orthodontic services to their patients. 

Orthodontists’ Tools

By using hardware like retainers, headgear, braces, and clear aligners, an orthodontist will create a treatment plan for aligning a patient’s teeth.

This treatment will fix alignment issues that might be preventing a person from chewing or swallowing food correctly. In addition, it’ll also vastly improve the appearance of the patient’s teeth. 

What Does an Orthodontist’s Treatment Look Like?

The very first step is all about coming in for a consultation. This appointment will be all about assessing your jaw and teeth malocclusion.

Malocclusion encompasses a variety of teeth misalignments. These can be overbites, underbites, teeth crowding, or crookedness. 

As we’ve previously discussed, you’ll probably be referred to an orthodontist from a general dentist. Therefore, your new orthodontist already knows what to look for. 

After the first appointment, your orthodontist will confirm your case. Then, you’ll get your teeth and jaws fully examined via x-rays or getting molds of your teeth. 

Doing these steps will ensure that any hidden teeth issues are brought to light before a treatment plan can be made.

Usually, any major issues will be caught through the first session.

However, there can be other issues lurking that might show up right in the middle of your treatment plan. Especially, if your orthodontist didn’t double-check with the aid of x-rays or teeth molds. 

Now that your orthodontist has a full picture of your teeth and jaws, they’ll discuss them with you as well as their recommendations for treatment solutions. 

The Range of Treatments

Every patient is different, therefore a patient’s treatment plan will differ according to their teeth and jaw needs. 

An orthodontist can create a treatment plan that ranges from tackling simple teeth adjustments and removing braces that you already have, to taking concrete steps to deal with major facial growth issues. 

Traditionally, the majority of malocclusion cases will be fixed by applying a form of braces. Of course, any patient of any age can wear braces or clear aligners. Yet, the treatment is much faster and streamlined when it comes to kids in their teens. 

It’s ideal for young patients as it’s a time of constant and exponential growth, both in bones and teeth. Thus, it’s easier to catch any teeth alignment problems and nip them in the bud before they fully form. 

Moreover, regardless of the patient’s age, once these braces or aligners are applied, the patient will have to come in for regular check-ups. 

These check-ups will be essential for adjustments as time goes by for the treatment to be effective. After the desired result has been met at the end of the treatment, the braces or aligners are removed. 

Yet, teeth maintenance is key, which is where retainers come in to cement the teeth changes in place and ensure long-lasting comfort for your jaw and teeth. 

Furthermore, it’s critical to keep in mind that an orthodontist’s job doesn’t revolve around braces alone. As it were, orthodontists also deal with other jaw conditions that might cause speech impediments, sleep apnea, and even gum diseases. 

Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Body

Sometimes, we tend to forget that oral hygiene is a thing until we’re dealing with a gargantuan ache in our teeth or jaws that can’t be ignored.

However, by going for regular dental check-ups, or following a treatment plan created by an orthodontist, you’re saving yourself a ton of literal aches in the future. After all, no one can escape from their teeth for long. 

So, what does an orthodontist do? Now, you know! Yet, there is still so much to learn. Check out our technology and financial sections for all the healthcare tips and tricks that you need to navigate the healthcare system. 

Consumers can also try steel bite pro for teeth and gums.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.