In much the same way as doctors choose to specialize in areas such as cardiology and neurology, dentists can also choose to specialize. Orthodontics is a dental specialty which aims to prevent, diagnose and treat facial and dental irregularities, such as malocclusions (bad bites). Many orthodontic practices are limited to dentofacial orthopedics and general orthodontics but can successfully treat patients of any age.
Orthodontists are fully qualified dentists who embark on a further three years of university-based study and gain extensive clinical experience in an orthodontic residency program. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) is the professional organization representing orthodontists. Selecting an orthodontist who is a member of this organization adds the assurance that treatment is being administered by an individual with specialty education in oral biology and biomechanics who is highly engaged in their profession. The AAO recommends that children should first be examined by the orthodontist around the age of seven, to ensure that jaw and tooth irregularities are not beginning to form.