You may take good care of your teeth, get regular check-ups with your dentist, and still experience complicated dental issues. A dentist may not be able to address all your needs, and this is when it may become necessary to see an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a specialist who diagnoses and treats problems that lead to or cause dental and facial complications. Treating these issues can offer many physical and mental benefits including improved self-confidence, enhanced breathing and speech, and a better bite and ability to chew.
There are different situations in which you might need to see a dentist or an orthodontist. In this article we’ll examine a few of them.
When should a child see an orthodontist?
If you are interested in ensuring the long-term health of your child, it’s possible for a child as young as six to be taken for an assessment by an orthodontist. Orthodontic issues can be spotted by an orthodontist from this early age. Don’t worry, even if the orthodontist identifies potential issues, they may recommend additional assessments to monitor the problem and consider orthodontic treatment once the child is old enough.
Early treatment of some orthodontic problems, particularly those related to the jaw, is vital. If treatment begins when the patient is young, the growth of the jaw can be regulated using various orthodontic tools to rectify the problem. If treatment is left until the patient has reached adulthood, treatment for certain issues can be more complicated, as the jaw bone will have hardened and stopped growing.
Children who do undergo early orthodontic treatment will usually be recommended removable appliances instead of a fixed, permanent solution, depending on the condition and its severity.
When should an adult see an orthodontist?
Problems like overbites, crooked teeth and jaw alignment don’t just magically go away, and can affect your adult life if they aren’t dealt with in good time. In addition to that, there are certain orthodontic problems that arise as you grow older. But adults might think that, once they reach a certain age, orthodontics are no longer an option. Or they might be aware that orthodontic solutions are available to adults but are concerned by the huge impact orthodontic solutions might have on their lives. Orthodontic solutions are assumed to be expensive and long term, and have a negative impact on your appearance.
You will be relieved to know that more and more adults are getting orthodontic treatment. Each adult orthodontic case is different and may not require a drastic solution to resolve. An orthodontist is able to assess your unique situation and can find a solution that doesn’t heavily impact your day-to-day life.
Shouldn’t I just go to my dentist?
A general dental practitioner (GDP) is different from an orthodontist in much the same way a GP is different from a dermatologist. The GDP has more generalised knowledge regarding dental problems, while the orthodontist has more specialised and focused information about specific problems affecting the bite, jaws and teeth. The GDP is required to study for five years at a dental school and to undertake one to two years of supervised practice before being formally qualified. An orthodontist will undergo this same process, as well as an additional three years of study to specialise.
Once qualified, a GDP will be able to treat a variety of conditions that affect your oral health, such as gum disease, fillings, root canals and teeth whitening, and provide you with information to prevent further dental issues. An orthodontist on the other hand is a specialist who deals with problems relating to your bite, such as an overbite, underbite and overcrowded teeth. A GDP makes use of tools such as dental forceps, elevators and chisels, while an orthodontist will also use other specialist tools such as ligatures, band pushers and distal end cutters.
An orthodontist uses these tools to improve the alignment of your teeth or jaw, while a dentist uses their tools to handle other problems related to your teeth.
You still need to see a dentist while getting orthodontic treatment
If you are seeing an orthodontist to treat your problem, this doesn’t mean you need to stop seeing your dentist. It is still important to visit your dentist for your usual dental check-ups to deal with problems that your orthodontist can’t treat.
A professional scale and clean is vital in maintaining the health of your gums. It’s also important to remove plaque and tartar build-up, which can become an even bigger problem if you have an orthodontic appliance, as this creates new spaces for food and bacteria to collect.
Another problem that your dentist will be able to identify and help manage is decalcification. This is the loss of calcium in your teeth and is irreversible. A dentist will be able to spot the symptoms and help you manage this condition, which could lead to cavities. Cavities are another problem that your dentist will be able to address while you are using an orthodontifc appliance. Cavities are problematic on their own, but can also increase the duration of your orthodontic treatment.
Both an orthodontist and dentist have their roles to play in helping maintain oral health.
If you need more information on orthodontic treatments, download our Would You Like Straight Teeth guide to find out more. The Elmsleigh House Welcome Team is also waiting to hear from you if you need more information or if you would like to book an appointment to speak to one of our orthodontists in person at our clinic in Farnham, Surrey. Contact us on 01252 713797.