What is 'orthodontics'?

Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the detection and treatment of teeth and jaw misalignment (malocclusion). This requires extensive and accurate knowledge of the growth processes in the jaw and facial area as well as in the development of teeth. This is why dentists need to study for several years to specialize in this field following their dentistry course. They are then referred to as a 'dental surgeon for orthodontics' or 'orthodontist' for short.

What is the point of orthodontic treatment?

The ultimate aim of orthodontic treatment is to achieve teeth and jaw alignment which will maximize the teeth's longevity. Any malocclusion endangering the teeth must be rectified as soon as possible for this to happen. Orthodontic correction of the teeth and jaw position is also absolutely necessary if biting and chewing is difficult or impossible due to a malocclusion, or if you are having problems with lips and tongue, breathing or speaking.

How do teeth become "crooked"?

There is a distinction in orthodontics between misalignment of the jaws (the position of the jaws in relation to each other is incorrect) and of the teeth (the position of the teeth within a jaw is incorrect). Malocclusions of teeth and jaws can be hereditary or caused by bad habits, for example, sucking your thumb. Losing a milk tooth prematurely due to caries can also cause malocclusion of the teeth.

At what age do you start orthodontic treatment?

Generally, orthodontic treatment is started between the ages of nine and twelve. The growth that takes place at this age is used to correct the jaw misalignment. The treatment period is approximately 3-4 years. Treatments from the age of 3 or 4 (early treatment) are only carried out in specific cases, for example, in the case of extreme jaw misalignment to restore normal growth conditions. In a few instances of misalignment, normal orthodontic treatment cannot be carried out successfully due to unfavorable growth patterns. Additional surgical procedures are then required at the end of the growth period (at the age of 17 or 18). Malocclusions can be corrected at any age (even in adults) and this is often required before using dentures or when there are problems with jaws.

How do I get "straight" teeth?

"Loose" and "fixed" braces are used to treat misaligned teeth and jaws. "Fixed braces" are glued onto the teeth so that they cannot be removed, unlike "loose braces". Generally, the "fixed brace" is used to treat "crooked teeth" and the "removable brace" is used for misaligned jaws. However, there are some areas of overlap. If bad habits such as thumb sucking or swallowing incorrectly have caused the jaw misalignment, these habits must be stopped as well, as otherwise the braces will not have the same effect or will not work at all.

Do I need orthodontic treatment?

An orthodontist must determine in each individual case whether orthodontic treatment is required, as the decisive factor is not the extent of the current deviation from the norm, but possible further developments and potential complications. Ask your orthodontist.

Apart from good dental hygiene, what else can I do to protect my teeth during orthodontic treatment?

As the concentration of bacteria causing dental decay is increased two-fold (removable treatment devices) to three-fold (fixed devices) during orthodontic treatment, it is useful to determine the individual's level of caries risk by means of a test (CRT = caries risk test). A customized therapy plan can then be devised to prevent caries during treatment. Apart from special measures, it is advisable to glue the fixed brace onto a fluorine-emitting protective layer and not directly onto the tooth to prevent lasting damage where the brackets are fixed (during "fixed" treatment).The entire visible tooth surface is covered with this protective layer (sealing) immediately before the braces are positioned. This means that the tooth is effectively protected at least in the initial stages when the patient is not quite so practiced in dental hygiene. We advise professional dental cleaning at least once a quarter during a fixed orthodontic treatment procedure to protect the interdental spaces. We apply a protective antibacterial coating after every dental cleaning which suppresses the increase of bacteria causing tooth decay for some time.

What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

An orthodontist is a dentist with additional specialist medical training lasting 3 to 4 years. In this time, he/she specializes solely in the field of orthodontics. This training is completed with an exam in front of a peer review board, consisting of orthodontist professors and registered orthodontists. The title of orthodontist or orthodontic dentist can only be applied on successful completion of this specialist training. However, any dentist without this specialist training is allowed to carry out orthodontic procedures.

Is it possible to save taxes with an orthodontic procedure?

Expenditure due to illness is taken into account for tax purposes in accordance with § 33 of the German income tax law (EstG). This includes your own contribution to orthodontic treatment which can be declared as extraordinary expenses in your annual income tax statement. Further information can be obtained from the tax authorities or your accountant.