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The discipline of orthodontics focuses on the growth and development of the craniofacial complex and dental occlusion, as well as the treatment of abnormalities related to these structures.  Although the word orthodontics is derived from the Greek "orthos" being "straight" and "odontos" being "tooth", the scope of orthodontics and orthodontic treatment is much wider than only the dentition. It involves the study of the dentition, craniofacial skeleton and the facial and jaw musculature and other related soft-tissues.

At an undergraduate level emphasis is placed on a thorough knowledge of preventive and interceptive orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning. This includes the use of suitable appliances to maintain or create space in the mixed dentition, treat habits and speech problems, and to achieve better occlusion and aesthetics. Functional appliances can be used to improve skeletal jaw relationships and direct growth of the jaws in young patients in the late mixed dentition stage of development.

The speciality of orthodontics (MChD degree) includes all of the above as well as comprehensive treatment of dentofacial abnormalities (including cleft lip and palate defects, craniofacial syndromes, and orthognathic surgery), often using fixed appliance systems.

Modern day orthodontics involves a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of patients, for example the use of implant dentistry (temporary anchorage devices), periodontal and prosthetic procedures, and orthognathic surgery in treatment planning. The Department also offers other postgraduate programmes, namely MSc by Research and the Postgraduate Diploma in Interceptive Orthodontics.