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While the focus of orthodontic treatment is to correct malocclusions or bad bites, dentofacial orthopedics involves the use of removable functional appliances, such as headgear, to guide facial growth and development.
If jawbone structures are developing too small, resulting in crowding or the lower jaw is underdeveloped, causing an overbite, appropriate wear of functional orthopedic appliances can greatly improve the alignment of jaw structures, to create a balanced facial profile, without the removal of permanent teeth.
In some cases, orthopedic treatment is initiated before braces are placed. However, often orthodontic and orthopedic treatment occurs at the same time. Generally dentofacial orthopedic treatment, if necessary begins at age 10, and typically lasts from six months to a year.
Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics is one of the nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. An orthodontist is a dental specialist who has completed a residency program accredited by the American Dental Association, of at least two academic years focusing on tooth movement (orthodontics) and guidance of facial development (dentofacial orthopedics).