What is Orthodontics?

The term itself comes from two Greek words: “orthos,” which means right or correct and “odon,” which is the Greek word for tooth. Orthodontics is a “special kind” of dentistry involving the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. The technical term for crooked, crowded or protruding teeth is “malocclusion,” which means “bad bite.” The practice of orthodontics involves the design, application, and control of corrective appliances, commonlycalled braces, to treat and correct these problems.  An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has successfully completed at least two academic years of continuous advanced studies in an orthodontic program of a dental school or institution approved by the American Dental association. This advanced training includes such diverse studies as physics, embryology, genetics, human growth and development, cephalometrics, biophysics and mechanical engineering. Only dentists with this advanced education can announce that they are orthodontists.

Brief History of Orthodontics

Origins of today’s orthodontics extend back to the dental practices of ancient times. References to correcting irregularities of the teeth can found in the medical writings of ancient Rome and Greece. However, it wasn’t until about 1830 that a French dentist named Lefoulon began to call his work with crooked teeth “orthodontisie.” Around 1860 appliances used to move teeth were becoming more refined, but worked simple on individual teeth and there was no real attempt to correct the bite as a whole. Sometime around 1880 a system for classifying malocclusions and terminology for diagnosing specific orthodontic problems was developed by Dr. Edward Angle. Dr. Angle is generally considered the father of modern orthodontics which was the first dental specialty. In 1899 he founded a school in St. Louis, Missouri to teach orthodontics. A few years later Angle and others founded the American Society of Orthodontists, which later became known as The American Association of Orthodontists. By the mid-1920?s major colleges and universities throughout the country offered advanced training in orthodontics.  By the 1970’s the first attempts to straighten teeth from the lingual (behind the teeth) began to be popular with some orthodontists, especially in Europe and Japan.  Today with the development of custom fixed appliance systems  such as incognito, lingual orthodontics is a powerful tool capable of surpassing conventional bracket systems.

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