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Dentofacial Orthopedics

You may have noticed that our doctor specializes in "Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics."  While most people have heard of orthodontics, many are confused by the "dentofacial orthopedics" part of the title.  We can explain!
 
Every orthodontist starts out in dental school.  Upon completion of dental school, some graduates immediately go into practice as dentists.  Others choose to pursue a dental specialty, which requires additional schooling during a three-year residency program.  There are nine specialties sanctioned by the American Dental Association.  Those you are likely familiar with are Pediatric Dentistry (dentistry for children), Periodontics (dentistry focusing on the gums), Endodontics (root canal therapy), Oral Radiology, Prosthodontics (replacing missing teeth), and Oral Surgery.
 
One of the nine specialties is "Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics."  You probably know that an orthodontist straightens teeth, and indeed: "ortho" comes from the Greek word for "straight" or "correct," and "dontic" from the Greek words for "pertaining to teeth."  What about "dentofacial orthopedics?"  "Dentofacial" is "teeth" plus "face," while "ortho" again means "straight" and "pedic" is from the Greek word for "bones." So, in short, it means changing (aligning) the shape of the facial bones and jaws.
 
Essentially, while orthodontics entails the management of tooth movement, dentofacial orthopedics involves the guidance of facial bone growth and development, which occurs largely during childhood.  In both cases, ancillary appliances are frequently used.  The more familiar braces are used for orthodontics, and other specialized appliances like the Herbst appliance (mandibular advancement), and maxillary and mandibular expanders (upper and lower jaw expansion) are utilized, depending on what facial bone discrepancies are present.  Sometimes orthopedic treatment may precede conventional braces, but often the two are accomplished at the same time.  So, if your child gets braces and an expansion or an advancement appliance, he is undergoing orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics!
 
Because our doctor is skilled in both areas, he is able to diagnose any misalignments in the teeth and jaw, as well as the facial structure, and can devise a treatment plan that integrates both orthodontic and dentofacial orthopedic treatments.

 

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