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What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialised branch of dentistry focussing on the development and management of irregularities and abnormalities of the teeth, jaws, and face. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion” which means “bad bite”. Orthodontists treat malocclusions using braces, aligners, or appliances, helping their patients to achieve a beautiful smile.

At Dan Smethurst Orthodontist in Tauranga, we specialise in teeth straightening treatments using metal and clear braces and Invisalign®. We have treatments to suit the whole family with braces for children, teens, and adults.

What’s the difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

The main thing that sets orthodontists apart from dentists is the area of specialisation. Orthodontists are required to become a dentist first. They attend five years of regular dental school, but then commit to another three years of additional specialty training (Masters or Doctorate) in Orthodontics at a reputable university.

An orthodontist is registered with the Dental Council of New Zealand as a Dental Specialist. Orthodontists are also certified by professional organisations like the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO).

Orthodontists treat patients for jaw re-alignment, teeth straightening, and other related procedures. They also have the expertise to recognise and manage potential complications that may arise during or following treatment. Orthodontists do not do fillings, drilling, tooth whitening, cleans, or extractions. That is what you will need to see your dentist for.

What’s the difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?

Who needs orthodontic treatment?

At Dan Smethurst Orthodontist, we love seeing the difference orthodontic treatment can make in the lives of our patients and their families. We treat minor and major cases and leverage our expertise with the latest technologies to help treatment run as smoothly as possible.

If you are considering whether orthodontics can improve your teeth, bite, or jaw, here are some of the most common problems we treat:

What’s the difference between an Orthodontist and a Dentist?Who needs orthodontic treatment?

Common orthodontic problems


Crowding is a very common problem and occurs when there is not enough space in your mouth for your teeth. This causes teeth to fight for space and overlap each other.


The opposite of crowding is spacing, meaning there is too much space in your mouth. As such, there is too much room for your teeth and gaps can appear. These gaps make prime locations for plaque to build up.


Orthodontics is not only focused on correcting problems associated with teeth, but with your jaw alignment as well. If your top teeth sit out and over your bottom teeth, this is a sign of an overbite.

Common orthodontic problems


The opposite of an overbite is an underbite, where your bottom teeth sit beyond your top teeth. Problems with your bite can lead to poor oral health, digestive issues from not chewing food properly, and impacted teeth.


If your teeth don’t meet when you bite down on your back molars, this is known as an open bite. This can be easily corrected with orthodontic appliances.

Each of the above problems can effectively be treated by our Specialist Orthodontist at our practice in Tauranga.

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Common orthodontic problems