When a dentist finishes dental school, they have the option to continue their education and chooses to specialize. One of the many options that dentists take is Orthodontics. Orthodontics is a dental specialty that aims to prevent, diagnose and treat facial and dental irregularities, such as malocclusions, or uneven bites.

Orthodontists are fully qualified dentists who embark on a further three years of university-based study and gain extensive clinical experience in an orthodontic residency program. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is the organization responsible for this branch of dentistry. 

How does an orthodontist fix alignment issues?

The orthodontist will recommend the best treatment plan for the patient’s particular condition based on panoramic x-rays and study models (bite impressions). 

Here is a brief overview of some of the treatments orthodontists may use:

  • Braces – The combination of brackets (fixed on the tooth), and an archwire (which connects each bracket) are commonly placed to gently train the teeth into proper alignment.  Dental braces can be made of metal, ceramics, or clear (“invisible”) materials.
  • Invisalign – An innovative orthodontic solution that uses no metal wires, brackets, or other such devices. With Invisalign, patients wear a series of clear plastic aligners that gradually move their teeth into the optimal positions—quickly, comfortably, and discreetly. 
  • Headgear – These devices are generally used to correct a developmental problem, such as an overbite or an underbite.  In addition to the dental braces, the orthodontist will design the headgear and/or facemask which fits around the head and attaches to the braces.  This structure will further encourage the teeth and jawbone into alignment.
  • Retainers – After the orthodontist has realigned the teeth using dental braces a retainer may then be provided to ensure that the teeth do not begin to move back toward their original positions.  Retainers are generally worn until the underlying bone has reformed into the correct position.


Developing malocclusions, or bad bites can be recognized as early as 2-3 years of age. Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Stage I – Early Treatment: This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years. At this young age, we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss of primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking. Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II – Mixed Dentition: This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6-year molars. Treatment concerns deal with jaw mal-relationships and dental realignment problems. This is an excellent stage to start treatment when indicated, as your child’s hard and soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.

Stage III – Adolescent Dentition: This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.