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What Is Orthodontics?

The word “orthodontics” means “Straight Teeth”, but orthodontics treats a lot more than just crooked or crowded teeth.

Orthodontic treatments are used to reposition the teeth and jaws into better alignment, improving the bite, opening the airways as well as creating a more aesthetic arrangement of the teeth.

Poorly aligned teeth or jaws are said to be in a “malocclusion”, meaning “a bad bite”. There are many different types of malocclusions, ranging in severity.

Why Do We Treat Malocclusions?

Some types of malocclusions can contribute to jaw pain, excessive wearing of the teeth, problems with chewing and speech, problems associated with narrowing of the airways and poor oral health.

Malocclusions can also affect the aesthetics of the smile and face.

People are more often aware of the aesthetic implications of their malocclusion than they are of the potential effect on their health and well-being.

Why Do Malocclusions Occur?

There are many reasons why your teeth and jaws might be in a less-than-ideal alignment.

Often the reason is genetic. You will have noticed that facial shapes tend to run in families. It’s entirely possible to see an overbite, missing teeth or narrow jaw appear throughout generations of a family.

But sometimes malocclusions occur as a result of the environment. For instance, a young child might have a thumb-sucking habit that can influence the development of their jaws and alignment of their teeth.

You might find that you or a loved one requires orthodontic intervention if:

  • Baby teeth have been lost early due to dental disease or trauma
  • Baby teeth haven’t fallen out on schedule and remain in the mouth, preventing adult teeth from taking their correct natural positions
  • Adult teeth are impacted or naturally crowded
  • Dental disease or trauma has caused the loss of adult teeth
  • The position of the teeth has been affected by oral habits like thumb sucking

The Alma Dental Approach to Orthodontics

There are many benefits to having a mouth free of malocclusions. That’s why we keep a close eye on the arrangement of teeth and jaws for all of our patients.

If you are already a regular patient of our practice, you’ll have noticed that our dentists regularly review the alignment and arrangement of your teeth and jaws. This review is part of their standard and super-thorough check-up.

We are big fans of early intervention orthodontics for children. So much can be done to correct the bite before it becomes a detrimental malocclusion. Even if early intervention can’t alone address the problem, it can often prevent or reduce the required wearing time of braces when the child is older.

Thanks to modern treatments and materials, it is now possible for adults of any age to enjoy the benefits of orthodontic treatment.

When it comes to treating adults, we know that they typically have a lot going on in their life and may not want to wear traditional braces. Adults might also be concerned about the time-frame or cost of treatment. We’re always happy to discuss these concerns and to provide several alternative treatment methods that will suit individual expectations, available time and budget.

As with all of our treatments, you can expect

  • our full attention and care
  • As much explanation and time for questions as you need to make the decision that’s right for you
  • A team that is passionate about and experienced in providing your treatments
  • Quality materials and equipment

Dr Dee-Anna Luong, our principal dentist, is a General Dentist with interest in (and passion for) orthodontic tooth movement. She received her initial training in this field as part of her Bachelors Degree in Dentistry. She has since attended many courses on her specific areas of interest within the field.

Dr Dee will treat most cases of malocclusion within her practice. She is pleased also to have a network of specialist orthodontists to whom she refers complexed cases, including those which require surgical management.

The Ideal Outcomes of Orthodontic Treatment

Well-Aligned Teeth

Perfectly straight teeth have become the gold standard for orthodontic care, and this is what many people expect from their treatment. Straight teeth look good and are easier to clean than teeth that are crowded together or misaligned.

Ideal treatment involves the straightening of the upper AND lower, front AND back teeth all at the same time.

A Good Bite

A good fit between the upper and lower jaws ensures that the upper and lower teeth mesh together correctly. A good bite:

  • Makes it easier to chew
  • Can improve the clarity of speech
  • Will prevent abnormal wearing of the teeth
  • May even contribute to improved breathing by ensuring the nasal passages and sinuses have grown to their full potential

A Good Aesthetic Result

Sometimes the teeth can appear to be straight, but other elements of facial aesthetics are compromised. Orthodontic treatments seek to ensure that the teeth look good within the face, both from the front and in profile.

Common Dental Problems That Orthodontics Can Treat

Dental Crowding

  • Crowding can make it harder to control plaque which puts the teeth and gums at risk of dental disease.
  • Some people don’t like the way crowded teeth look.
  • Crowded teeth may not mesh well together, making chewing more difficult.

Gaps Between Adult Teeth

Gaps can occur

  • If teeth are smaller or the jaw is larger than normal 
  • If teeth are not present because of dental disease, accident or failure to develop 
  • Through the presence of oral habits like tongue thrust or weakened facial muscles have allowed the teeth to tilt or move
  • Through the presence of thick bands of gum tissue. An example is a “diastema”, a natural spacing of the upper central incisors.


These are a type of abnormal bite that occurs when the jaws don’t align properly, causing the upper teeth to bite inside the lower teeth. A crossbite may exist on one or both sides of the mouth and may involve front or back teeth.

This type of malalignment isn’t always noticeable by others, but it can cause abnormal wear on the teeth or jaw problems if not treated.


An overbite occurs when the upper jaw sits significantly forward of the lower jaw. This misalignment may be present because the upper jaw is too large, or the lower jaw may be unusually small.

The condition can be genetic or can be caused by oral habits like thumbsucking.

Sometimes the overbite is very noticeable to others (the top teeth might look overly prominent, or the facial profile might favour the upper jaw).

There are also potential problems such as abnormal wear of teeth, excessive pressure on the jaw joint, and irritation of the gums caused when teeth bite down against them.


An underbite is the reverse of the overbite. The lower jaw will appear much larger than the upper jaw. The cause is either an upper jaw that is too small or a lower jaw that is too large.

Genetics, unusual oral habits or tooth interferences can cause the problem, and the jaw joint can suffer, and teeth wear unevenly, as a result.

Open Bite

An open bite occurs when there is a space between the front teeth when back teeth are closed together. Oral habits such as thumbsucking and the prolonged use of pacifiers (dummies) can lead to an open bite developing.

The open space between the front teeth can sometimes lead to speech problems (such as lisping) and may cause unusual swallowing habits (such as a tongue-thrust swallow).

Protrusive (“Buck”) Teeth

Teeth that protrude are at much higher risk of being damaged during sport or play. Orthodontic repositioning of the teeth reduces this risk considerably.

What Types Of Orthodontic Treatments Are Available At Alma Dental?

Braces have become synonymous with orthodontics. However, there are many other types of orthodontic treatments available to people of all ages.

Early Intervention Orthodontics

This phrase refers to the early identification and treatment of potential misalignments of the teeth and jaws of young children. It is used to minimise or eliminate misalignments of the teeth and jaws of young children.

Early intervention can also effectively protect developing airways from becoming too narrow. Narrow airways can become blocked, potentially leading to mouth breathing which causes the mouth to become dry. A chronically dry mouth in children can contribute to the development of gum disease and tooth decay.

Narrow airways can also cause several other symptoms in children, including

  • Night sweats
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Chronically dry, sore lips
  • Crowding of the teeth
  • Chronically blocked nose

Dr Dee has learned that it’s important to “clear the nasal plumbing” of youngsters through early intervention, encouraging the airways to remain open.

Orthodontic Appliances

These are also known as orthodontic plates. There are many types, all with different functions. They can be fixed onto the teeth or be completely removable.


Braces are made up of a wire that is attached to the teeth by a series of brackets. As the wire tries to return to its original position, it pulls the teeth along with it, causing them to straighten.

There are lots of different types of braces, including those with metallic or ceramic brackets. We even provide braces that are attached to the backs of the teeth (“lingual braces”), entirely hidden from sight!


These are thin, transparent plastic shells that sit over the teeth and nudge them into a better alignment. They are very popular with older teenagers and adults because they are not easily noticeable.

Are There Risks With Orthodontic Treatments?

Depending on the treatment, there may be risks or potential unexpected outcomes. These will always be explained to you before treatment begins.

Risks can include:

  • Jaw joint pain or damage
  • Loss of tooth vitality – the nerves in teeth with deep fillings can die as a result of treatment
  • Shortening of tooth roots, which can make teeth become loose and potentially cause their loss
  • Soft tissue damage from broken or loose wires.