Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an orthodontist and a specialist orthodontist?

By law, any registered dentist can provide orthodontic treatment and can call themselves an orthodontist – this simply means that they use braces on some of their patients. The General Dental Council (GDC) regulates dentists and it states that any registered dentist can work in any area of dentistry - as long as they feel competent (able) to do so. Only a registered dentist who has also successfully completed a 3 year formal training program in orthodontics (or equivalent) is recognised by the GDC as a specialist in orthodontics. You can find out if a dentist is registered as a specialist in orthodontics here.

What is an orthodontic therapist?

An orthodontic therapist is a registered member of the dental team. They assist orthodontists in carrying out orthodontic treatment and provide some aspects of the treatment themselves. They can only work to the treatment prescribed from an orthodontist and within their competence (ability) and scope of practice as defined by the GDC.

When should a child first see an orthodontist?

Your regular dentist will monitor your child's dental development when there are lots of deciduous (baby) teeth present. Most children begin orthodontic treatment around the age of 12 or 13, once all their permanent (adult) teeth have erupted. In a few instances it is better to start orthodontic treatment sooner and your dentist may want to make an earlier referral.

Can adults undergo orthodontic treatment?

Yes, absolutely. In fact, more adults are undergoing orthodontic treatment now due to the different types of discreet braces available

Is orthodontic treatment the same for adults as it is for children?

Sometimes adult orthodontic treatment can be more complicated than it is for children. Adults may have already had some teeth removed or they may have teeth with large fillings or crowns present. Although adult orthodontic treatment may take a little longer than in children, it is still possible so long as the teeth and gums are healthy.

Does orthodontic treatment hurt?

Fitting the brace should not be painful. For a fixed brace, the brackets are simply glued onto the surface of the teeth and then a thin wire joins the brackets together. No anaesthetic is needed. After the brace has been fitted you can expect some aching and tenderness as the teeth start to move, but this mostly wears off after 5 to 7 days. The amount of discomfort varies from person to person and some patients do experience a degree of tenderness for a longer period. It may be helpful to take your normal painkillers for a day or two after the brace has been fitted. Some further discomfort may be experienced when the brace is adjusted.

How long will my orthodontic treatment take?

Simple straightening can sometimes be completed in 6 months, particularly if the treatment goal is just to straighten the upper front 6 teeth and accept the way that the teeth bite together. However, a relatively short treatment like this usually produces limited changes and this is not always a long-term solution as often this isn't enough time to move the whole tooth, including the roots, into the ideal position. This may mean that the teeth are more likely to try and move back to their original positions once the braces are removed. On average, it takes between 18 to 24 months to improve the way that the teeth look as well as improving the way that they bite together. However, treatment may take longer for more difficult orthodontic problems – for example if your front teeth are very prominent (stick out) or if you have teeth which are a long way from their ideal position.

I've seen adverts for "Six Months Smiles" – can you tell me more about this?

"Six Month Smiles" is a company that provides dentists with a tooth-straightening kit after the dentist has completed a 2 day hands-on training course run by the company. The dentist information section of the company website states that the kit is designed for dentists "who have little or no orthodontic experience". The aim of "Six Month Smiles" is to only straighten the teeth that you can see when you smile, using tooth-coloured braces and wires, with an average treatment time of 6 months. For some patients this works fine, but for other patients just straightening the front teeth may potentially impact on the health of the gingivae (gums) and bone around the teeth as well as changing the way that the teeth bite together. Our advice to any patient who is considering "Six Month Smiles" treatment is to make sure that you have considered all of the treatment options available and that you are aware of the pros and cons of each. Our specialist orthodontists will be able to provide you with this information.

Will the National Health Service (NHS) pay for my orthodontic treatment?

All patients under 26 years of age are entitled to an orthodontic assessment which is paid for by the NHS. The NHS currently funds orthodontic treatment for those patients whose dental health will benefit from undergoing orthodontic treatment as indicated by the "Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need" (IOTN). The IOTN is essentially a means of measuring and categorising the severity of a patient's orthodontic problem. If the severity of a patient's orthodontic problem is above the "need for orthodontic treatment" threshold on IOTN, then the NHS will fund orthodontic treatment for that patient. The NHS contract for orthodontics funds all braces, adjustments and repairs required during the entire treatment. The only exception is the charge for replacement of removable braces lost or damaged beyond repair. There is also a charge for replacement retainers when they need to be replaced through natural "wear and tear". The NHS currently does not fund treatment for patients who are older than 26 years of age.

Are there any risks in undergoing orthodontic treatment?

As with most things in life, there are potential risks as well as benefits to undergoing orthodontic treatment. At the point when you are ready to discuss your orthodontic treatment options, you will be given a booklet which will explain in detail the potential risks involved in undergoing orthodontic treatment. You will be asked to sign a form to confirm that you have been informed about these possible risks. Many of these risks can be minimised by applying common sense and following the advice of your orthodontist.

I play a brass/woodwind musical instrument – how will a brace affect my music?

Some musicians who play a brass or woodwind instrument may find that orthodontic treatment affects their ability to practise and perform. Inexperienced musicians will probably find that wearing a brace doesn't change their performance very much, but more experienced, proficient players may notice a greater change. Removable braces can be removed whilst playing and so may not affect playing at all. It makes sense to avoid having your brace fitted at a time when you have important music exams, auditions or performances. With practice, most patients can adjust to playing a brass or woodwind instrument whilst wearing braces. For more detailed information, follow this link to the British Orthodontic Society website.

Can I still take part in sports if I am wearing a brace?

If you are wearing a removable brace, you should take your brace out of your mouth and wear a good mouthguard whenever you take part in contact sports such as hockey and rugby. You should take out your removable brace when swimming. If you have a fixed braces, you should wear a special orthodontic mouthguard that can be moulded with heat so that it can fit over the top of the brace when you take part in contact sports. You can buy this type of mouthguard from our reception, specifically designed for this purpose.

Do I need to see my regular dentist during my orthodontic treatment?

Yes, definitely, as the orthodontist only looks after the braces and you still need to see your dentist for check-ups as usual. Your teeth are actually at greater risk during orthodontic treatment and it is particularly important that you keep in contact with your regular dentist to monitor your dental health.