Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws. It can also focus on modifying facial growth, known as dentofacial orthopedics.
Abnormal alignment of the teeth and jaws is common, nearly 30% of the population has malocclusion severe enough to benefit from orthodontic treatment. Treatment can take several months to a few years, it involves the use of dental braces and other appliances to slowly move the teeth and jaws around. If the malocclusion is very severe, jaw surgery may be used. Treatment is usually started before a person reaches adulthood since bones can more easily be moved around in children.
A typical treatment for incorrectly positioned teeth (malocclusion) takes about 1 to 3 years to complete, with braces being altered slightly every 4 to 10 weeks by the specialists called orthodontists. Multiple methods exist for adjusting malocclusion. In growing patients there are more options for treating skeletal discrepancies, either promoting or restricting growth using functional appliances, orthodontic headgear or a reverse pull face mask. Most orthodontic work is started during the early permanent dentition stage before skeletal growth is completed. If skeletal growth has completed, jaw surgery can be an option. Sometime teeth are extracted to aid the orthodontic treatment (teeth are extracted in about half of all the cases, most commonly the premolars).
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