What Does an Orthodontist Do? Straightening Smiles!

Orthodontics is a field of dentistry that specializes in diagnosing and treating dental abnormalities, particularly in the alignment of teeth and jaws. Orthodontic specialists, also known as orthodontists, use various devices and techniques to straighten crooked teeth, correct bite problems, and improve overall oral health.

Who Is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has completed an additional 2 to 3 years of postgraduate training beyond dental school. They focus on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. They can also diagnose and treat conditions such as sleep apnea, snoring problems, and other disorders that affect the mouth and jaws.

What Conditions Can Orthodontists Treat?


A crossbite occurs when one or more upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, which can lead to tooth wear, gum disease, and bone loss. Orthodontists can use various appliances such as braces, expanders, or herbst devices to correct crossbites.


Crowding is a common dental problem that occurs when there is not enough space for teeth to properly align. Orthodontists use braces, clear aligners, or expanders to create space and align teeth properly.

Overbite and Underbite

An overbite occurs when the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth excessively, and an underbite occurs when the lower teeth protrude ahead of the upper teeth. Both conditions can affect the appearance of the face and affect proper chewing and speaking. Orthodontists use various devices to correct overbite and underbite, including braces, aligners, retainers, and surgery in severe cases.

Open Bite

Open bite is a condition where there is a gap between the upper and lower teeth when chewing. Orthodontists use braces or retainers to alleviate an open bite.

Cleft Lip and Palate

A cleft lip and palate is a birth defect that causes a gap in the roof of the mouth, lips, or both. Orthodontists can work together with a team of specialists to manage this condition, including maxillofacial and plastic surgeons, speech-language pathologists, and dentists. Treatment can involve orthodontic appliances, surgery, and therapy.

What Is the Process of Seeing an Orthodontist?

Seeing an orthodontist typically involves the following steps:

  • Consultation: An initial consultation involves a comprehensive dental exam and X-rays to assess the extent of the dental problem.
  • Treatment plan: Based on the exam and X-ray findings, the orthodontist will provide a treatment plan tailored to the individual’s needs.
  • Appliance placement: Once the treatment plan is agreed upon, the orthodontist will place the necessary appliance, whether it’s braces, aligners, or a retainer.
  • Follow-up visits: Follow-up visits are important to monitor the progress of treatment and make necessary adjustments.
  • Retainer: After the primary treatment is completed, a retainer is used to keep the teeth in their new alignment.

What Are the Benefits of Seeing an Orthodontist?

There are various benefits of seeing an orthodontist, including:

  • Better oral health: Orthodontic treatment can improve the bite and the alignment of teeth, making it easier to clean teeth, reducing the risk of gum disease, and preventing tooth decay.
  • Improved confidence: A straighter, healthier, and more beautiful smile can boost self-confidence, leading to better social interactions and improved mental health.
  • Better speech: Misaligned teeth or jaws can affect speech, making some words difficult to pronounce. Orthodontic treatment can correct these abnormalities, improving speech.
  • Better jaw function: Treatment can alleviate jaw pain related to temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which can also cause headaches, earaches, and difficulty chewing.

What Are the Risks of Seeing an Orthodontist?

While orthodontic treatment is generally safe, there are some risks involved, including:

  • Mouth sores: Braces can cause sores in the mouth, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.
  • Tooth decay: Braces can make it harder to clean teeth properly, which could increase the risk of tooth decay or gum disease if proper hygiene is not maintained.
  • Root shortening: In rare cases, teeth roots can become shorter during orthodontic treatment.
  • Cavities: Patients who consume sugary or acidic foods and drinks during orthodontic treatment may be at higher risk of developing cavities.
  • TMJ: Orthodontic treatment can worsen existing TMJ disorders in some patients.


Orthodontists play a crucial role in improving dental and oral health by diagnosing and treating dental abnormalities such as misaligned teeth or jaws. Orthodontic treatment can help to alleviate jaw pain, improve speech, prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and boost self-confidence. However, there are some risks involved, and patients should discuss any concerns with their orthodontist.

Frequently Asked Questions about Orthodontics

  • What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?
  • Can adults get orthodontic treatment?
  • How long does orthodontic treatment take?
  • How often do I need to visit my orthodontist?
  • What are the different types of orthodontic appliances?
  • How much does orthodontic treatment cost?
  • Do braces hurt?
  • Can I still play sports with braces?

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Orthodontics

What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

A dentist provides general dental care, including preventive care, fillings, extractions, and root canals. An orthodontist, on the other hand, specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating dental and facial irregularities.

Can adults get orthodontic treatment?

Yes, adults can get orthodontic treatment. In fact, more and more adults are seeking orthodontic treatment, and there are many treatment options available that are specifically designed for adults, such as clear aligners.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

The length of time for orthodontic treatment varies depending on the severity of the case and the treatment plan. On average, treatment takes about 18 to 24 months.

How often do I need to visit my orthodontist?

Patients typically need to visit their orthodontist every 4 to 8 weeks to make necessary adjustments and monitor progress.

What are the different types of orthodontic appliances?

There are various types of orthodontic appliances, including traditional metal braces, clear braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

The cost of orthodontic treatment varies depending on the type of treatment required, the length of treatment, and the location of the orthodontist.

Do braces hurt?

Braces can cause some discomfort or soreness, especially during the first few days after getting the braces. However, this discomfort usually subsides within a week or two.

Can I still play sports with braces?

Yes, you can still play sports while wearing braces, but it is recommended to wear a mouthguard to protect the braces and teeth.


  • Canadian Association of Orthodontists. (2021). About Orthodontics. Retrieved from https://cao-aco.org/about-orthodontics/
  • American Association of Orthodontists. (2021). Orthodontics FAQs. Retrieved from https://www.aaoinfo.org/blog/orthodontics-faqs/
  • Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Straight Talk About Braces for Adults. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/straight-talk-about-braces-for-adults-201401317008

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