Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that treats malocclusion, a condition in which the teeth are not correctly positioned when the mouth is closed. This results in an improper bite.
The history of orthodontics has been intimately linked with the history of dentistry for more than 2,000 years. Dentistry had its origins as a part of medicine. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, archaeologists have discovered mummified ancients with metal bands wrapped around individual teeth. Malocclusion is not a disease, but abnormal alignment of the teeth and the way the upper and lower teeth fit together. The prevalence of malocclusion varies, but using orthodontic treatment indices, which categorize malocclusions in terms of severity, it can be said that nearly 30% of the population present with malocclusions severe enough to benefit from orthodontic treatment.
Orthodontic treatment can focus on dental displacement only, or deal with the control and modification of facial growth. In the latter case it is better defined as “dentofacial orthopedics”. In severe malocclusions that can be a part of craniofacial abnormality, management often requires a combination of orthodontics with headgear or reverse pull facemask and/or jaw surgery or orthognathic surgery.
This often requires additional training, in addition to the formal three-year specialty training. For instance, in the United States, orthodontists get at least another year of training in a form of fellowship, the so-called ‘Craniofacial Orthodontics’, to receive additional training in the orthodontic management of craniofacial anomalies.