Braces are a type of orthodontic treatment appliance used to correct the position of the teeth 

Keeping your braces clean

A common complication of orthodontics is tooth decay.

This can happen because orthodontic appliances can sometimes stimulate the production of saliva, which combines with small particles of food and bacteria that have not been cleaned from the teeth properly to form a sticky film known as plaque.

The plaque causes the enamel to decay. This effect is worsened by the fact that many people with appliances find it difficult to keep their teeth clean, so additional brushing is essential during treatment.

To reduce your risk of enamel decay, your orthodontist may recommend you use toothpaste with high levels of fluoride or a mouthwash that contains fluoride. You should also try to avoid sugary foods and fizzy drinks.

If you neglect your oral hygiene, orthodontic treatment may not be effective and could even make things worse. If this is the case, treatment will be stopped.

Orthodontics is a type of dentistry that aims to improve the appearance, position and function of crooked or abnormally arranged teeth.

The name comes from a Greek word that literally means "to straighten teeth".

Healthcare professionals who specialise in orthodontics are known as orthodontists. You can find a list of all specialist orthodontists registered in the UK on the General Dental Council (GDC) website.

What does orthodontic treatment involve?

Orthodontics uses devices such as a brace to correct the position of the teeth. Your exact treatment will depend on the problems with your teeth.

In some cases, you may have to wear headgear at night as well as a brace, and you may also need to have some teeth removed as part of your treatment.

If worn correctly, you are likely to achieve good results, usually within 18-24 months. If the problem is more complicated, treatment may take longer.

Read more about the types of orthodontic treatment.

Who needs orthodontic treatment?

You may need orthodontic treatment if your teeth or jaw do not develop in a normal way. This can cause discomfort and make it hard to maintain good oral hygiene.

In some cases, abnormal development of the teeth and jaw can affect the shape of the face, which could cause psychological and emotional problems, such as lack of self-confidence.

Problems with crooked and out-of-place teeth are quite common in the UK. A recent study carried out in England found that around a third of 12 year olds would benefit from some degree of orthodontic treatment.

Read more about when orthodontic treatment is used.

How can I access orthodontic treatment?

In most cases, you or your child will be referred to an orthodontist by your dentist, although you may be able to seek treatment directly.

If orthodontic treatment is recommended, you may have to decide whether to have treatment privately or on the NHS.

NHS orthodontic treatment is free for people under the age of 18 with a clear clinical need for treatment. However, due to high demand there can be a long waiting list for NHS orthodontic treatment.

If you or your child does not qualify for free NHS treatment, or you don't want to wait for treatment to start, you may choose to have private treatment. Private treatment is widely available but can be expensive, with an average fee of between £2,000 and £6,000.

Read more about accessing orthodontic treatment.

Page last reviewed: 10/12/2012

Next review due: 10/12/2014


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 174 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

AlyJanee said on 19 July 2014

I'm 13 years old and was wondering about requesting braces. when i go for check ups its only been brought up once and that was about 2 years ago. I know for a fact that my teeth aren't neat at all and one is so far back you sometimes can't tell its there. If i were to request for braces at my dentist, would I be charged to have them done and if so how much would it cost?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

VCSmummy said on 24 June 2014

Having sucked my thumb until age 11 and made my teeth stick out, I endured having braces for years as a teenager, including a head brace for a while (probably one of the worst things you could ever ask a self-conscious teenager to wear), and I had lovely straight teeth as a result. However, when my wisdom teeth emerged in my late 20s, they pushed my teeth, and now several of my teeth are wonky or overlapping. Therefore I would hesitate to put any of my kids through the pain and annoyance of having braces as it doesn't guarantee you straight teeth for life.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Joanne_suen said on 10 April 2014


I am currently a 19 university student who has previously had braces for a two year period. Due to having braces, it caused movement of my two front teeth so only one sits in the middle and the other is now a side tooth. I would like to have braces again but I am not too sure on the costs that I will have to pay. Can someone inform me on the costs?

Kind regards,


Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Gibby_megs said on 15 March 2014

I have been refused braces and been told to go back to the dentist in 6 months. I am very worried about my appearance and the large gap between my teeth. I cried when i found out this information. My parents are not wiling to go private as the prices are extortionate. What should I do?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable


Find out how braces can improve your smile, plus how to get treatment on the NHS

Dental health

How to care for your teeth, including check-ups, brushing, braces and whitening

Find and choose services for Orthodontics