What is orthodontics? Orthodontics literally means “straight teeth”. It is an area of dentistry that prevents, diagnoses and treats dental and facial irregularities. If you need orthodontic treatment, your family dentist will usually refer you to an orthodontist. These dental specialists study two to three additional years in the area of orthodontics, during which time they learn how to safely move teeth into proper alignment, guide facial development and ensure healthy growth in the jaw.