Orthodontics By Steven Lin, DDS | Reviewed by a board-certified physician Updated September 08, 2016 Print Orthodontics is a specialized area of dentistry that focuses on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of conditions affecting the alignment of the teeth and jaw.Orthodontists and some general dentists design and fit corrective devices like braces, clear aligners, expander plates, and headgear to help bring the teeth or jaw into alignment. There are many factors that can reveal why your teeth are crooked in the first place and what orthodontic options are available to you. What Are the Benefits of Orthodontics?Well-aligned, straight teeth not only look better, they generally indicate an overall healthier mouth. Misaligned teeth and jaws can be related to uneven tooth wear, gum problems, breathing difficulty, poor oral hygiene (due to hard to clean teeth), speech development, and damage of the jaw joint. Orthodontics can often deliver a smile that not only addresses these issues, but helps you (or your child) feel more confident. Article Parents Can Help Their Children Get Over the Fear of Braces List What You Need to Know About Braces and Orthodontics How Do I Know if I/My Child Could Use Orthodontic Work?You may simply notice that your smile, or that of your child, is not as straight as you'd like it to be. Some people are more susceptible to crooked teeth, though many of these problems can be caused by what someone is exposed to, such as breastfeeding or thumb sucking/pacifier use. Alternatively, your dentist may detect a problem that orthodontics can help with and suggest that you consider it. Some common problems orthodontists help their patients with include:Crowded teethUnderbiteOpen biteCrossbiteDeep biteSpaced out teethWisdom teethMissing teeth Impacted teethThe teeth and jaw relationship begins right from birth, so it’s important to pay close attention to a child’s jaw development. By the time a child is seven years of age, it's usually quite obvious to a dentist/orthodontist if a patient will have orthodontic problems, as most of the adult teeth should be present.Doctors may also have a hand in suggesting orthodontic treatment. Your teeth are an indication of how your jaw and face are developing, and a poorly developed jaw may contribute to issues with airway function. Today, orthodontics can be performed to actually help people breath better.There are some signs that indicate that you/your child aren’t breathing properly:Mouth breathingOpen mouth at restDaytime sleepinessMemory/attention problemsDark circles under the eyesSnoringBedwettingSleep disturbance/poor sleepA doctor may suggest orthodontic work as part of treatment, sometimes after other assessments have been completed, such as a sleep study.What Does Orthodontics Involve?Early treatment is best, as it prevents problems from becoming more serious. Article Got Braces? Here's How to Handle Your Next Sugar Craving Article There Are a Variety of Ways to Handle a Loose Brace Treatment can be more difficult once growth has stopped. That said, orthodontic treatment can start at varying ages, depending on the case.Before you get your teeth straightened, there are several stages you need to get through to achieve the end result. Expansion: A special orthodontic device is used to expand the width of the palate or jaw. This helps make more room for the teeth so they can come in as straight as possible. Correction: A correction device is then fitted to help correct the existing teeth, with adjustments made as teeth move during treatment. Retention: A second device, called a retainer, is fitted and expected to be worn regularly for another 12 months to prevent teeth from moving back into their old position. In the following year, patients are usually required to wear the retainer just at night. Functional Devices: These appliances allow you to use your jaw in a way that will help correct your bite and prevent tongue movements that cause further displacement of your teeth. BracesBraces (also known as brackets) are one of the most common orthodontic treatments. The thought of getting braces can be a little nerve-racking for some people, especially if you have visions of those big, chunky metal braces from the 80s. However, braces these days are vastly improved from what they were decades ago, and they can be made from stainless steel, metal, ceramic, or plastic.While ceramic or plastic braces may look better aesthetically, you need to consider that plastic may stain and discolour by the time you reach the end of your treatment.In some cases, it may be suitable to use invisible, removable aligners that are changed every two weeks. It allows you to brush and floss normally, unlike traditional braces.Your or your child's lifestyle and habits, along with your budget, should all be considered.Fittings and AdjustmentsThe process of being fitted with an orthodontic appliance begins with your orthodontist determining which one is suitable for your mouth. If braces are required, the first step is placing little brackets on your teeth, and then bonding them to the tooth with a special adhesive. Article Temporary Self-Help Tips for Managing Loose Orthodontic Bands Article Learn These Tips and Tricks to Clean Your Invisalign Retainers Metal bands are applied to the back teeth, and wires are placed inside the brackets.When you are fitted, your appliance will be fine-tuned by your orthodontist or dentist to apply slight pressure on your teeth, so they move in the desired direction. Because your teeth will move during treatment, you will need to have adjustments from time to time.How Long Does Orthodontic Treatment Take?Generally speaking, orthodontic treatments take some time—around 18 months to two years. The actual time required depends on the severity of the condition, the type of treatment needed, and if the patient follows their orthodontist’s instructions with regard to appliance use.How Much Will Orthodontics Cost?Costs can vary from $5000 to $15000. What you end up spending can vary depending on the extent of the treatment, what modalities are used, and your insurance coverage (if any).At your initial consultation, your orthodontist or dentist should discuss both options and costs. You should ask any questions during this time so that its clear what is required to achieve the final treatment outcome from a time, commitment, and financial investment standpoint.