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Orthodontist Frequently Asked Questions

What is an orthodontist?

Orthodontists diagnose and treat teeth positioned incorrectly in your jaw. They also correct jaw abnormalities. This can help you feel more confident about your smile and have a well functioning bite.

Orthodontics is a subspecialty of dentistry focused on the treatment of crowded teeth, overbite, underbite, misaligned teeth, corrective jaw surgeries, and facial skeletal problems.

Orthodontists have a variety of solutions for corrective treatment, including braces and clear aligners.

Orthodontists treat children, teens, and adults.

What procedures do orthodontists perform?

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Orthodontists can perform the following procedures:

  • comprehensive treatment to correct bite and straighten teeth
  • growth modification in children and teens to address spacing and skeletal issues
  • limited treatment (mostly in adults) to partially address dental problems and straighten teeth

Specifically, orthodontists may:

  • examine and diagnose malocclusion (misalignment of the teeth or jaw problems)
  • monitor how the jaw bones, jawline, face, and bite grow as a child grows
  • take records (mostly digital) of your teeth and jaw to examine your teeth more closely and design dental appliances to fit in your mouth
  • put braces on your teeth to help straighten them
  • design, fabricate, and give clear aligners that you can insert and remove at any time
  • put on orthodontic headgear to modify the direction of growth in children with skeletal abnormalities such as small lower jaws
  • bond in a palatal expander (spreader) on your top teeth to widen the upper jaw in your mouth if your palate is thin and causing your teeth to crowd or your bite is off
  • place a Herbst appliance with a combination appliance of braces or clear aligner to address skeletal problems in growing teens
  • perform corrective jaw surgeries (orthognathic surgery) with an oral surgeon to help fix bites and straighten teeth that can’t be corrected with braces or aligners alone
  • help patients maintain their straight teeth after treatment by offering orthodontic retainers, clear retainers, Hawley retainers, or bonded fixed retainers

This isn't an exhaustive list. Your orthodontist may offer other services that aren't listed here.

Get in touch with your local orthodontist to see if they can do the procedures you're looking for.

What conditions do orthodontists treat?

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Orthodontists treat both dental problems involving the teeth and skeletal problems involving the jaw.

Problems with teeth:

Problems with jaw bones (skeletal problems):

This isn't an exhaustive list of conditions that an orthodontist can treat. Get in touch with your local orthodontist to find out the full range of conditions that they'll be able to treat.

What should I ask an orthodontist?

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Top questions to ask an orthodontist during your appointment include:

  • What’s your background in orthodontics? What do you specialize in?
  • What treatment options do you suggest for my condition? Are braces necessary, or are there alternatives?
  • What can I realistically expect from my treatments?
  • What will my teeth or jaw be like if I don’t do treatments?
  • Are there any changes I’ll need to make to my diet or lifestyle during treatment?
  • Have you had success in the past treating cases similar to mine? What can I expect?
  • How long will I have braces on? How long will other treatments take?
  • Will I need surgery for my condition? What can I expect from the surgery and how long will recovery take?
  • How much will my braces or treatment cost? Can I pay in installments?
  • Can I straighten my teeth without braces?
  • Do braces hurt? Will it hurt when I get them on and have them taken off?
  • Will braces work for my children or do I need to wait until they’re older?
  • Am I too old to get braces? Will another treatment work?