For a layman, orthodontics is that branch of dentistry that deals with aligning of teeth using braces, basically an esthetic treatment associated with young children. However, being the first specialty branch of dentistry with over 100 years of existence, this is an over simplification of a rather complex science.
In 1911, Noyes defined orthodontics as—“the study of the relation of the teeth to the development of the face, and the correction of arrested and perverted development.”
In 1922, the British Society of Orthodontists proposed that—“Orthodontics includes the study of growth and development of the jaws and face particularly, and the body generally, as influencing the position of the teeth; the study of action and reaction of internal and external influences on the development, and the prevention and correction of arrested and perverted development.”
The American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) and (AAO)—“Orthodontics is that specific area of dental practice that has as its responsibility the study and supervision of the growth and development of the dentition and its related anatomical structures from birth to dental maturity, including all preventive and corrective procedures of dental irregularities requiring the repositioning of teeth by functional or mechanical means to establish normal occlusion and pleasing facial contours.”
With the advent of 21st century, our knowledge of life sciences has increased tremendously. Today, we can predict the extent of possible growth in individual cases and even mould the growing child´s face.
Along with this, the extensive advances in material science has brought about better acceptance of our treatment plans by children and adults alike. With the advent of esthetic (tooth colored) appliances (Fig. 1.1) and lingual appliances (Fig. 1.2) (invisible braces or braces that are actually put towards the tongue) the acceptance of orthodontic treatment has increased many fold.
Advances in surgical procedures have added a whole new dimension of orthognathic surgery to the field of orthodontics. Now if tooth movement is beyond the preview of orthodontics alone, orthognathic surgery can aid in aligning the jaws per se. Today orthodontic correction can be brought about at practically any age as long as the supporting structures are healthy and the patient motivated.