Just like baseball and gymnastics are types of sports, an orthodontist (say: or-thoh-don-tist) is a type of dentist. Using braces, retainers, and other devices, an orthodontist helps straighten a person's teeth and correct the way the jaws line up.
Straight teeth and aligned jaws create nice smiles. On top of that, when your jaws and teeth are well aligned, it's easier to chew food. Orthodontic care can even help prevent snoring!
So why would you go to the orthodontist? Your dentist or one of your parents might recommend it because they see a problem with your teeth or jaws. Or a kid who doesn't like the way his or her teeth look might ask to see an orthodontist.
Orthodontists treat kids for many problems, including having crowded or overlapping teeth or having problems with jaw growth and tooth development. These tooth and jaw problems may be caused by tooth decay, losing baby teeth too soon, accidents, or habits like thumb sucking. These problems also can be genetic or inherited, meaning that they run in a person's family.