What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a specialisation of dentistry, concerned with mainly the diagnosis, prevention and the treatment of poorly positioned teeth and jaws, as well as the irregularities of the face. The technical terms for these problems are considered malocclusion which is explained as ‘bad bite’. Orthodontic treatment is straightening of the teeth, improved dental health, increased self-confidence, improving the function and the appearance of the smile.
WHO IS BEST QUALIFIED TO PROVIDE ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT YOU REQUIRE?
The following will explain; what is the difference between a general dentist providing orthodontics, a functional orthodontist and a specialist orthodontist. This will help you make an informed choice about who to approach for treatment.
• A general dentist providing orthodontics
All dentists receive about 100 hours of orthodontic training in their basic course, usually as part of a class of about 50 students that teach them how to carry out simple treatments although many choose not to do so because even “simple” treatments can unexpectedly become quite complex. General dentists are trained to correct simple problems with the way your teeth fit together (“the bite”). They generally restrict themselves to the use of removable plastic plates.
• “Functional Orthodontics”
General dentists who have often attended several weekend courses usually given by speakers presenting material well to one side of mainstream orthodontic thought. They typically use one type of treatment – “functional appliances” (bulky removable plastic devices – like a gum shield). Sometimes they finish cases with fixed metal braces. They are comparatively under-trained, have never presented themselves for review by an accredited teaching institution, characteristically have very limited experience and usually apply the same treatment modality to all cases. They tend to use impressive sounding jargon like “Growth Modification”, “Dentofacial Orthopaedics” and “Chirodontics” to describe treatments for which there is no valid and reliable scientific evidence.
General dentists who have undertaken 2-3 years of advanced study at an accredited teaching institution (usually a major university) and are subsequently registered by the New Zealand Dental Council as specialists.
As well as the 100 hours of training received during the basic course to become a general dentist they have successfully undertaken approximately 3000 hours of extra training, much of it conducted on a one to one basis. They are trained in all aspects of orthodontics, so they can treat problems according to an individual’s specific needs. They mostly use fixed metal or clear braces, small plastic plates, and sometimes functional appliances.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORTHODONTICS AND AN ORTHODONTIST
Orthodontics was the first recognized specialty field within dentistry. Many countries have their own systems for training and registering orthodontic specialists. In New Zealand, a two to three year period of full-time post-graduate study is required for a dentist to qualify as an orthodontist.
An orthodontist is a specialist in the dental field, having to undergo a three year Masters Degree that involves rigorous training in all aspects such as management in tooth movement, guiding facial development and more complex cases that might involve multidisciplinary treatments with other specialists. As teeth can sometimes alter the whole facial structure, it is important that the treatment is appropriate and completed properly.
Our Orthodontists are registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand (DCNZ) as a Dental Specialist.