What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is derived from the Greek word 'orthos' (which means perfect teeth) and refers to the branch of dentistry which treats badly aligned teeth. This includes crooked, misshapen and protruding teeth or a badly aligned jaw.

Misaligned teeth are usually treated with a brace of which there are several types to choose from. These are discussed in more detail in our orthodontics treatment section.

Malocclusion

Misaligned teeth affect your 'bite' or in dental terms, malocclusion. Occlusion refers to the normal meeting of the upper and lower jaws which fit together when the mouth is closed. But any misalignment or problem with closing the jaws is called malocclusion.

Think of it as a form of maladjustment, with your jaws preventing you from biting and chewing food in a normal manner. This not only affects your ability to eat but has a negative effect on your facial appearance as well. The end result is a mouthful of crooked teeth and an unattractive smile.

Malocclusion is the reason behind many orthodontic treatments.

Causes of malocclusion

In most cases, malocclusion occurs during childhood when a child's teeth fail to develop as normal. Their teeth are out of position or become misaligned due to thumb sucking.

Malocclusion also occurs as a result of an accident or injury. If a child falls over they may land on their face causing their teeth to be pushed out of place. Or they may chip a tooth.

Another possible injury is that of a dislocated jaw.

With adults, the most likely scenario is that of an accident or injury or teeth which are crooked but have never been treated. In both cases the adult feels embarrassed about their teeth which have a negative effect on their confidence and self-esteem.

More and more adults are seeking treatment for badly aligned teeth which is mainly due to advances in dental technology.