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Orthodontics is the branch of dental science that is focused on correcting and preventing irregularities. Orthodontists are dentists who use braces or other means to help ensure your teeth are correctly aligned.

Overview: Orthodontics and Orthodontia

Orthodontia is the field of dentistry that deals with teeth and jaw abnormalities. Orthodontics refers to the devices used in this dental specialty, such as braces. Specialists use these and other devices to help address issues related to the teeth and jaw. Orthodontists are the specialists who work in this branch of dentistry. Many people have teeth that are naturally straight and fit together well. However, those with problems such as an overbite or teeth that are too far apart may need help from an orthodontist.

Orthodontics Devices

Orthodontic devices, such as braces, help to do the following:

  • Straighten crooked or misaligned teeth
  • Correct problems related to “bite” – the way teeth come together
  • Close any gaps between teeth
  • Ensure the lips and teeth are properly aligned

Kids are not the only ones who get orthodontics treatment such as braces. Many adults get braces, as well. However, many kids get orthodontic treatment to help ensure the jaw grows properly. When the jaw grows as expected, permanent teeth have a better chance of growing in correctly. Having straight permanent teeth can also help to prevent future oral health problems. And, of course, having healthy teeth can be a help in other parts of life, as well.

Orthodontic Headgear

In some cases, braces alone may not be enough to change the way teeth and jaw grow. For these situations, orthodontists may recommend wearing orthodontic headgear. People wear this type of device outside of the mouth to provide added traction. Headgear can help move teeth into a better position and keep them from shifting. Typically, orthodontic headgear is only worn while at home, such as in the evening or while you’re sleeping.


A retainer is a custom-made orthodontic device that may be either fixed in place or removable. Retainers attach to teeth to help hold them in position. People usually wear a retainer after a full treatment with braces. However, sometimes orthodontists prescribe them to treat teeth without also using braces. Whether used alone or with braces, retainers help keep teeth correctly positioned. They are typically made of plastic or rubber and have metal wires that cover the teeth. For post-braces care, patients should wear their retainer at all times for the first six months, then usually only while sleeping.

Pros and Cons of Invisalign Braces

If you need braces but cringe at the thought of sporting traditional metal braces in your soon-to-be perfect smile, you might want to consider alternative orthodontic treatment such as Invisalign. Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment that uses clear, removable aligners that are virtually undetectable when worn. Here are a few pros and cons of Invisalign braces.

On the up side...

Even before the Invisalign treatment is complete, you’ll be able to start enjoying a new and improved smile. Invisalign braces begin correcting teeth alignment almost immediately. With each set of aligners, teeth gradually shift into place, so the improvements to your smile will be more and more noticeable at each stage of treatment.

Freedom to Remove Braces

Invisalign aligners are removable so you can take them out to eat, floss, and brush your teeth. Almost every other type of orthodontic braces can cause tooth decay because, unlike Invisalign, they cannot be removed for eating and brushing, so food particles can get trapped in the orthodontia.

Comfortable and Virtually Pain-Free

Your orthodontist will take precise impressions of your teeth to create customized aligners that are made of a smooth plastic that won’t irritate your gums and cheeks like metal braces do.

Virtually Invisible

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is a cosmetic one: Invisalign braces are virtually undetectable, so no one will even know they’re there. Children, adolescents, and adults can achieve the perfect smile with confidence: the transparent Invisalign aligners allow a degree of discretion not afforded by the conspicuous metal wires and brackets used for traditional orthodontic braces.

Turnaround Time

Generally speaking, orthodontists are unable to accurately forecast the duration of orthodontic treatment involving conventional braces because they lack the ability to model teeth movement over the course of treatment.

Conversely, Invisalign treatment includes a pre-planning phase that enables orthodontists to accurately project treatment time, which can be equal to or less than that of regular braces. Several studies have shown Invisalign treatment time to be quicker than that of traditional orthodontic braces; however due to insufficient clinical research, the validity of this has been debated within the medical community.

While further clinical trials are necessary to conclusively prove that Invisalign treatment is (or is not) accelerated, the accurate projection of treatment time gives Invisalign patients a valuable benefit not afforded by traditional braces.

On the other hand...

Easy to Lose

Invisilign’s removability is one of the aligners’ best qualities; but it is also a double-edged sword. Since the Invisalign braces are easy to take out, it is equally easy for patients to misplace them in the course of daily activities. Children also frequently lose the clear Invisalign trays, sometimes multiple times during the course of treatment. In either case, a replacement set will need to be made for the lost tray.

Not Always an Option

Invisalign does not work for everyone, especially for those needing major adjustments. Due to its design, there are some limitations on what Invisalign aligners can do. In certain cases, Invisalign braces are unable to correct dental issues that conventional metallic braces can.

Pain and Discomfort

The transition phase with Invisalign is as uncomfortable as it is with traditional braces. The shift from one set of Invisalign braces to the next can be equally painful as the tightening of wires on metal braces.

Commitment to Treatment Schedule

The success of Invisalign braces largely hinges on the patient’s commitment to follow the required treatment schedule. The process requires a series of aligners to be worn for a set amount of time. If patients fail to stick to the treatment schedule and don’t wear each aligner for the necessary length of time then the remaining aligners will not fit properly. If this occurs, a new set of aligners will be needed to resume Invisalign treatment.