Orthodontics is a specialty in dentistry that concerns itself with aligning the teeth and jaws in proper position when they are out of sync. This happens commonly when the growth of one jaw does not keep pace with the other. This is a problem that you might inherit from your parents. Thumb sucking, mouth breathing and tongue thrusting are other factors that could contribute to malocclusion [misaligned teeth]. When the occlusion [bite] is out of balance and/or teeth are crooked or crowded, a person becomes more susceptible to gum disease, tooth decay and chipping or fracturing teeth. Speech and phonetics may be compromised. It’s not unusual for people with teeth irregularities to refrain from smiling, because they are embarrassed by the looks of their mouth. With orthodontic treatment, crooked or crowded teeth, underbites or overbites, spaces between teeth and improper jaw position [i.e. retruded or protruded lower jaw] can be corrected. Both function and cosmetics can be restored. Orthodontic treatment consists of removable or fixed appliances and may involve brackets, bands, wires and/or elastics to provide the necessary movement of your teeth. The ideal time for braces is for youngsters between 10-14 years of age, while their face and mouth are still growing. However, many adults are now improving their smiles and correcting minor problems by wearing braces. The time required for treatment depends on the complication of the problem. The average time is 1-3 years followed by several months of wearing a retainer to stabilize the straightened teeth. As one get older, the same treatment could take longer. During the treatment, there will be periods of some discomfort as the wires are tightened to apply the necessary pressure, and extra special care must be taken in oral hygiene to prevent demineralization or decay of your teeth. Just look at orthodontics as an investment in your appearance and long-term, continual dental health. So straighten out and smile right!