AskDefine | Define orthodontist

Dictionary Definition

orthodontist n : a dentist specializing in the prevention or correction of irregularities of the teeth

User Contributed Dictionary



ορθος (orthos) straight + οδοντ (odont) tooth

Extensive Definition

Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusions (improper bites), which may be a result of tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships, or both. The word comes from the Greek words ortho meaning straight and odons meaning tooth.
Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or can deal with the control and modification of facial growth. In the latter case it is better defined as "dentofacial orthopedics". Orthodontic treatment can be carried out for purely aesthetic reasons—improving the general appearance of patients' teeth and face for cosmetic reasons—but treatment is often prescribed for practical reasons, providing the patient with a functionally improved bite (occlusion). Dr. Edward H. Angle was the first orthodontist—the first dentist to limit his practice to orthodontics only. He is considered the "Father of Modern Orthodontics." In the 1940s Dr. Percy Raymond Begg, an Australian orthodontist, developed a the "Light Arch Wire Technique". Both Begg and Edgewise techniques are still taught today at most orthodontic training programs around the world.


If the main goal of the treatment is the dental displacement, most commonly a fixed multibracket therapy is used. In this case orthodontic wires are inserted into dental braces, which can be made from stainless steel or a more esthetic ceramic material.
Also removable appliances, or "plates", headgear, expansion appliances, and many other devices can be used to move teeth. Functional and orthopaedics appliances are used in growing patients (age 5 to 14) with the aim to modify the jaw dimensions and relationship if these are altered. (See Prognathism.) This therapy is frequently followed by a fixed multibracket therapy to align the teeth and refine the occlusion. Several appliances are utilized for growth modification; including functional appliances, Headgear and Facemasks.
These "orthopedic appliances" may influence the development of an adolescent's profile and give an improved aesthetic and functional result.


The most common condition that the methods of orthodontics are used for is correcting anteroposterior discrepancies. Another common situation leading to orthodontic treatment is crowding of the teeth.

Anteroposterior discrepancies

Anteroposterior discrepancies are deviations between the teeth of the upper and lower jaw in the anteroposterior direction. For instance, the top teeth can be too far forward relative to the lower teeth ("increased overjet".) The headgear is attached to the braces via metal hooks or a facebow and is anchored from the back of the head or neck with straps or a head-cap. Elastic bands are typically then used to apply pressure to the bow or hooks. Its purpose is to slow-down or stop the upper jaw from growing, hence preventing or correcting an overjet. For more details and photographs, see Headgear - Orthodontic.

Crowding of teeth

Another common situation leading to orthodontic treatment is crowding of the teeth. In this situation, there is insufficient room for the normal complement of adult teeth, which can sometimes motivate teeth being extracted in order to make enough room for the remaining teeth.

Diagnosis and treatment planning

In diagnosis and treatment planning, the orthodontist must (1) recognize the various characteristics of malocclusion and dentofacial deformity; (2) define the nature of the problem, including the etiology if possible; and (3) design a treatment strategy based on the specific needs and desires of the individual. (4) present the treatment strategy to the patient in such a way that the patient fully understands the ramifications of his/her decision.


Various countries have their own systems for training and registering specialist orthodontists; generally a period of full-time post-graduate study is required for a dentist to qualify as an orthodontist. The orthodontic specialty is the earliest dental specialty.


In the United Kingdom, this training period lasts three years, after completion of a membership from a Royal College. A further two years is then completed to train to consultant level, after which a fellowship examination from the Royal College is sat. In other parts of Europe, a similar pattern is followed. It is always worth contacting the professional body responsible for registering orthodontists to ensure that the orthodontist you wish to consult is a recognized specialist.

United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

A number of dental schools and hospitals offer advanced education in the specialty of Orthodontics to dentists seeking postgraduate education. The courses range from two to three years (with the majority being 3 years) of full-time classes and clinical work in the clinical and theoretical aspects of orthodontics. Generally, admission is based on an application process followed by an extensive interviewing process by the institution, in order to select the best candidate. Candidates usually have to contact the individual school directly for the application process.


In India, many dental colleges affilated to universities offer orthodontics as specialisation in Master of Dental Surgery ( M.D.S ) programme.The M.D.S course is of two years duration. The minimum qualification for M.D.S is Bachelor of Dental Surgery ( B.D.S ).


orthodontist in Arabic: تقويم الأسنان
orthodontist in Azerbaijani: Ortodontiya
orthodontist in Min Nan: Khí-go̍k kiáu-chèng-ha̍k
orthodontist in Catalan: Ortodòncia
orthodontist in German: Kieferorthopädie
orthodontist in Modern Greek (1453-): Ορθοδοντική
orthodontist in Spanish: Ortodoncia
orthodontist in Persian: ارتودنسی
orthodontist in French: Orthodontie
orthodontist in Italian: Ortodonzia
orthodontist in Dutch: Orthodontie
orthodontist in Japanese: 歯科矯正学
orthodontist in Polish: Ortodoncja
orthodontist in Portuguese: Ortodontia
orthodontist in Slovenian: Ortodontika
orthodontist in Finnish: Ortodontia
orthodontist in Swedish: Ortodonti
orthodontist in Vietnamese: Chỉnh răng
orthodontist in Turkish: Ortodonti
orthodontist in Chinese: 齒顎矯正學
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