The world of oral care is complex and there are many specialists that focus on the different areas of orthodontics and dentistry. All of these areas are important, so it’s imperative that you identify the specialist for your specific needs within the fields of dentistry and orthodontics. As you may know, there are many differences between orthodontists and dentists, so we’ve broken down some of the treatments you can expect from an orthodontist.

An orthodontist specializes in the alignment of teeth and jaws and works to correct issues of alignment such as crowded teeth, spacing, overbites and under bites, as well as temporomandibular disorders (TMD) and many others. They attend a two to three year residency program beyond dental school to make sure that they are knowledgeable and experienced in skilled procedures, as well as the latest technologies and treatments.


Braces and Clear Aligners

You probably already know that orthodontists are the specialist to go to for all types of braces and clear aligners. These two treatment systems work to straighten teeth and correct issues with your bite.

Metal and ceramic braces can be used in conjunction with rubber bands to further correct bite and straighten teeth. This is done by gluing brackets to each tooth and guiding them into alignment with wires and bands which gently moves teeth in the ideal position.

Clear aligners work similarly to straighten teeth with a series of clear trays that are molded to the teeth, working to progressively straighten them without brackets. These aligner trays will need to be worn for at least 22 hours per day to be most effective.

Both of these options work best when used under constant supervision of an orthodontic specialist to monitor progress and to adjust treatment as needed. Without monitoring, unexpected movements can occur, and more damage to the jaw and teeth alignment can happen.


Space Maintainers

Space maintainers are custom made appliances that are either removable or cemented into your child’s mouth, used to maintain the space between baby teeth & guide permanent teeth into position as they grow through.

This treatment is generally used when children lose a tooth too early or have a baby tooth extracted. If a space maintainer is not used, the other teeth may shift and move into the empty space, requiring more orthodontic work down the line.

Not all lost baby teeth will require space maintainers to hold the place of the permanent teeth open, especially if they come loose at the right time, when the adult tooth is breaking through the gum. Seeing an orthodontist at age seven will help parents catch any issues like this early so that more extensive treatment may be avoided in the future.


Palatial Expanders

A palatial expander corrects and reduces the severity of some jaw and teeth problems by gently widening the roof of the mouth and the upper jaw. This helps to alleviate teeth crowding, impacted teeth, and breathing problems caused by a narrow palate, which may lead to snoring from blocked nasal air passages.



Retainers help to maintain the alignment created by braces or clear aligners after orthodontic treatment. They are imperative to the longevity and efficacy of your braces treatment and must be worn as your orthodontist specifies after orthodontic treatment is completed.



Orthodontic headgear slows the growth of the jaw in order to ensure the correct positioning of the teeth – mitigating an overbite or under bite. It usually consists of a strap around the back of the head that is attached to a wire in the front of the mouth, which slowly repositions the jaw with the use of consistent pressure.


As you can see, orthodontists provide much more care and treatment than just braces and clear aligners and orthodontics is about far more than just straightening teeth. It’s about providing ideal alignment for your teeth and jaws in order to improve both oral health and overall physical and mental health.

If you are looking into one of these orthodontic treatments for yourself or a loved one, find an orthodontist in your local area for an initial consultation today. Using our search tool will ensure that your doctor is a member of the California Association of Orthodontists.

First consultations are usually free of charge.