Orthodontics is a special part of dentistry which is concerned with the diagnostics and treatment of malocclusions (crooked teeth and improper bites). Unlike the other special parts of dentistry, which generally deal with particular diseases, it’s not that clear in orthodontics. For many years, it has simply been assumed that dental and jaw malformations are diseases or at least associated with potential disease consequences. Studies from the recent decades have shown that most of the misalignments of teeth or disproportions of jaws can’t be evaluated as health disorders or just have a minor disease value. This won’t probably reduce the demand for orthodontics, because patients – regardless of health problems – ask for orthodontic treatment for aesthetic reasons.
In most of the countries this special field of dentistry is called orthodontics, which can be translated by correction of teeth. This was the title of the most important German-language journal, the “Progress in Dento-facial Orthopaedics”, until 1931 “Progress in Orthodontics”.
The newly created term “Dento-facial Orthopaedics“ could be traced back to the belief that removable appliances like the Activator could actually control muscle function and influence the growth of the skull and jaws (Functional Orthodontics, a theory published in 1935 by Andresen and Häupl). Those outdated hypotheses have already been disproved. In fact, the influence of conventional braces on cranial and facial growth is on a long-term scale of between 0 and 1 millimeter and thus clinically insignificant. In this light, the misleading term Dento-facial Orthopaedics should be replaced by the correct term orthodontics.