Beyond Braces: Two Serious Conditions That Orthodontists Treat

Orthodontists are most commonly known as the dentists who install braces. Yet, crooked teeth are just the beginning of the many issues an orthodontist can help treat. If would like to learn more about the true scope of orthodontic dentistry, read on. This article will introduce you to two little known disorders that orthodontics can solve.

Speech Impediments

When a case of dental malocclusion--the technical name for crooked teeth--is mild, it is generally considered merely a cosmetic issue. In that case, braces may be used to correct the appearance of the teeth if the patient so desires. Yet more severe cases of malocclusion can actually lead to serious disorders--speech impediments being one of the most common.

Extreme malocclusion makes it difficult for the mouth to align properly. This, in turn, can create problems in pronouncing consonants such as d and t. That's because forming these consonants requires very precise tongue placement. When the mouth is misaligned, it can be difficult--or even impossible--to place the tongue correctly.

This physical disability soon leads to a habitual one. In other words, speech impediments can become very difficult to correct when allowed to persist too long. Thus it is important for children to begin receiving orthodontic checkups beginning at the age of seven years old. When dental malocclusion is treated in these formative years, it greatly reduces the chances of speech impediments as an adult.

Sleep Apnea

Many people mistakenly think that sleep apnea is simply an alternative name for snoring. While it's true that the two are related, sleep apnea is a more severe condition. It's primary characteristics are shallow and/or paused breathing. As a result, the sleeper's carbon dioxide levels rise, because they are not taking in as much oxygen. This leads the sleeper to wake up several times throughout the night, thus interrupting natural sleep patterns.

Therefore, individuals with sleep apnea often end up developing symptoms of extreme sleepiness during the day. Needless to say, this can be highly frustrating. Luckily, orthodontists can help through the prescription of oral appliances. These devices, worn in the mouth while sleeping, act to increase the diameter of the airway. This helps ensure that the sleeper receives adequate oxygen levels.

Though there are a number of different styles of oral appliances, perhaps the most common is the mandibular repositioning device, also known as an MRD. MRDs work to open up the airways by moving the jaw and tongue forward. In order for this to happen properly, an MRD must be specially fitted for your mouth by a trained orthodontist.

If you have any questions about either of these issues, consider speaking to an orthodontic specialist, such as Boland Orthodontics, to learn more.