When orthodontics is used 

Orthodontic treatment is most commonly used to improve the appearance and function of misaligned or crooked teeth.

Teeth that are straighter and better aligned should be easier to clean, and may reduce strain on the muscles and joints of the jaw.

The improved appearance of your teeth or jaw might also help boost your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Teeth problems

Some of the most common teeth problems requiring orthodontic treatment include:

  • protruding upper front teeth – one of the most common reasons for needing orthodontic treatment
  • crowding – people with narrow jaws often lack enough space for their teeth, resulting in crowding
  • impacted teeth – the adult teeth may not come through as they grow in the wrong position
  • asymmetrical teeth – in some people, the centre of their upper and lower teeth don't match, giving their teeth an asymmetrical or crooked appearance
  • deep bite – the upper teeth cover the lower teeth too much
  • reverse bite – the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth
  • open bite – the upper and lower front teeth don't meet when the mouth is closed; an open bite is often a result of children sucking their thumb over a long period of time

Other reasons for treatment

Orthodontics can also be used to treat other health problems. For example, orthodontics is part of the treatment for cleft lip and palate.

It may also help in cases of mild sleep apnoea. An orthodontist can make a dental appliance similar to a gum shield, which can help prevent the airway closing while you sleep.

When can treatment start?

Orthodontic treatment will usually only be started after all of a child's adult teeth have started to come through.

For most children, this will be when they're about 12 or 13 years old. For adults, orthodontic treatment can begin at any age, but what can be done is more limited.

Oral hygiene

Orthodontists will not usually begin a course of orthodontic treatment unless you have a good standard of oral hygiene. This is because orthodontic treatment can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Page last reviewed: 11/12/2014

Next review due: 11/12/2016