What is Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is one of many dental specialties. The word “orthodontics” is derived from the Greek words orthos, meaning proper or straight, and odons, meaning teeth. Orthodontics is specifically concerned with diagnosing and treating tooth misalignment and irregularity in the jaw area. Initially, orthodontic treatments were geared toward the treatment of teens and pre-teens, but these days around 30 percent of orthodontic patients are adults.
There are many advantages to well-aligned teeth, including easier cleaning, better oral hygiene, clearer speech and a more pleasant smile. Though orthodontic treatment can be effective at any age, the American Dental Association suggests that an orthodontic assessment should be performed around the age of seven. The earlier orthodontic treatment begins, the more quickly the problem can be successfully resolved.
What Problems can be Treated with Orthodontics?
Orthodontics is a versatile branch of dentistry that can be used alone, or in combination with maxillofacial or cosmetic dentistry.
Here are some of the common conditions treated with orthodontics:
- Anteroposterior deviations – The discrepancy between a pair of closed jaws is known as an anteroposterior discrepancy or deviation. An example of such a discrepancy would be an overbite (where the upper teeth are further forward than the lower teeth), or an underbite (where the lower teeth are further forward then the upper teeth).
- Overcrowding – Overcrowding is a common orthodontic problem. It occurs when there is an insufficient space for the normal growth and development of adult teeth.
- Aesthetic problems – A beautiful straight smile may be marred by a single misaligned tooth. This tooth can be realigned with ease and accuracy by the orthodontist. Alternatively, orthodontists can also work to reshape and restructure the lips, jaw or the face.
Orthodontics is a technologically advanced field which offers many sophisticated solutions to malocclusions and other cosmetic problems. The orthodontist will generally perform a visual examination, panoramic x-rays and study models (bite impressions) in order to assess the exact nature of the discrepancy.
When a diagnosis has been made, there are a variety of orthodontic treatment options available.
Here is an overview of some of the most common treatments:
- Fixed orthodontic braces – A metal or ceramic dental base is affixed to each tooth, and a dental wire is inserted through each base. The orthodontist is able to gradually train the teeth into proper alignment by regularly adjusting the wire. When the desired results are achieved, the fixed dental braces are completely removed.
- Removable appliances – There are a wide range of removable appliances commonly used in orthodontics, including headgear that correct overbites, Hawley retainers that improve the position of the teeth even as the jawbone reforms, and facemasks which are used to correct an underbite.
- Clear Correct® – This is a newer, removable type of dental aligner that is completely transparent. Clear Correct® does not interfere with eating because of its removable nature, and mechanically works in the same way as the traditional metal dental braces. Not all patients are candidates for Clear Correct®.
Cliff Saper, DDS, PHD (General & Orthodontics)
Dr. Saper has been practicing teaching and studying orthodontics for over 20 years.
In addition to private and group practice he has served on the faculty of New York University and New York medical college and on staff as a surgical orthodontist treating cleft palate and other complex craniofacial patients.
As an orthodontic practitioner and educator Dr. Saper understands the importance of communication, not only with his patients and their parents, but also the rest of their dental team headed by their primary dentist.
Many colleagues and patients have commended him on his approachability and enthusiasm with his subject, Dr Saper’s goal is to make every consultation and treatment visit an enlightening and rewarding event
A native of north San Diego County, Dr Saper graduated from UC San Diego and then the UCLA school of Dentistry. He went on to Study Orthodontics and Dento-facial Orthopedics at St Louis University and continued his training with additional specialized experience in the treatment of complex surgical cases in conjunction with the University of Illinois Department of Oral Surgery. These cases brought an appreciation of a team approach to patient treatment.
One of Dr. Saper’s passions has always been inspiring others to reach their full potential. He has consistently been involved in education. During the years following his orthodontic training he served as a program director of a health sciences training program and earned a doctorate in education while teaching orthodontics abroad with the health volunteers overseas, an organization sponsored by the American Dental Association. He was cited by the American Dental Association for his volunteer teaching in Haiti.