Orthodontics is a specialized field of dentistry. Rather than drilling teeth and putting in fillings, though, an orthodontist deals with things that just don't line up. If you're having trouble with breathing, chewing, or swallowing, an orthodontist might be able to help you. Let's look at a few of the more specific ways orthodontics can help you.

Braces, Aligners, and Retainers

Most folks who have some familiarity with the orthodontic field have come by it through braces and aligners. These are the bread and butter of the business. If someone has crooked teeth, an orthodontist will try to straighten things up using either braces or aligners. When the job is done, they'll likely provide the patient a retainer to make sure everything stays put, too.

The range of correctable issues involving teeth is significant. Patients may present with large gaps between their teeth or no space at all. Teeth may overlap in one direction in part of the mouth and the opposite direction elsewhere.

Patients also may have abnormally erupted teeth. This is when an adult tooth erupts before the baby tooth drops out. In some cases, the baby tooth just refuses to leave. A doctor has to treat the eruption first, but then they'll also have to line the teeth up properly with braces or aligners once that's done.

Palate Issues

While it's largely correct to think of orthodontics as the crooked teeth field of dentistry, that's not always the source of a patient's problems. Sometimes, the palate creates issues. This is the semi-soft area at the top of your mouth, and problems here may show up as issues with your bite.

Orthodontists often have to rule out tooth-related issues first, though. Once they've established that realignment of the teeth isn't possible or won't be sufficient, they may turn their attention to the patient's palate. Depending on how problematic the palate is, the doctor may recommend surgery to correct the issue.

Jaw Problems

The trouble could be coming from the opposite direction, however. Sometimes, the jaw creates a misalignment of the teeth. In many cases, the difference is small enough that braces or aligners can correct it. There are cases, though, where the jaw itself is misaligned, too large, or too small. Once more, extreme cases may call for surgery.

How to Tell if You Have an Issue

Your bite should line up well enough that breathing, eating, drinking, and swallowing are relatively comfortable. If your teeth don't fully line up in a way that allows you to handle these basic functions, it's time to visit an orthodontist.