Braces and orthodontics

Braces are in high demand. Nearly 1 million people in the UK started orthodontic treatment last year and more adults than ever before want treatment. Here are the answers to some common questions about this type of dental treatment.

Why have braces?

The purpose of orthodontic treatment is to make the best of your teeth. This includes allowing you to bite correctly, eat more comfortably and care for your teeth and gums more easily. And your smile will benefit too.

Treatment almost always involves using braces to straighten crooked, crowded or protruding teeth, close gaps between teeth and correct the bite of the teeth, so the top and bottom teeth meet when you close your mouth.

Treatment usually lasts from 18 months to two years, with visits to the orthodontist required every four to six weeks.

How common is orthodontic treatment?

Around one in three British children has crooked teeth and needs orthodontic treatment to straighten them. 

Braces are usually more successful in children, and four out of five orthodontics patients are children. But more adults than ever now want treatment, many having missed out when they were children.

According to the British Orthodontic Society (BOS), nearly 1 million people in the UK started orthodontic treatment last year.

Are braces available on the NHS?

Orthodontic treatment is available free on the NHS for under-18s who need it. Treatment is also available on the NHS at the standard charge for complex dental treatment (just under £219) for adults who need it. However, adults who want orthodontic treatment to fix minor cosmetic problems aren’t eligible for NHS treatment.

Can I have private treatment?

Private treatment is widely available but expensive. The BOS says fees vary, but are usually around £2,000 to £2,500. However, they can be much higher.

One advantage of private treatment is that you have a wider choice of braces, including clear or invisible ones.

What’s the best age to have braces?

The ideal age to have orthodontic treatment is around 12 or 13, while you’re still growing. The opportunity for improvement in an adult is more limited and surgery is more likely to be needed.

How do I get braces fitted?

To get braces fitted you need to be referred to an orthodontist by your dentist.

If you want to check the qualifications of your orthodontist, use the definitive list of specialist orthodontists held by the General Dental Council. By law, only registered specialists can call themselves a specialist orthodontist.

What are braces like?

There are many different types of braces. Some are removable, which you take out at night, to eat a meal or to clean them. Some are fixed and stay in all the time. NHS braces are made of metal, but plastic and ceramic ones are also available privately. Some of these are clear, so you can hardly see them on your teeth.

Read more about different types of braces.

How successful are braces?

Orthodontics usually works very well, but it’s important to look after your teeth while you’re wearing braces. Braces can trap food and cause more plaque to build up than usual. You need to take extra care cleaning your teeth and watch what you eat, for example by avoiding sugary foods and drinks. You also need to see your dentist regularly while having orthodontic treatment.

Read more about looking after your teeth while wearing braces.

What if I’m refused NHS braces?

If you think you or your child is being refused NHS treatment unfairly or the waiting list for treatment is unreasonably long, contact your local branch of NHS England. Find your nearest NHS England area team.

Find out more about orthodontics or braces.

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015

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The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Bracesbeforeandafter said on 30 July 2014

the trend we've seen lately is actually a large upswing in adults getting braces, mostly lingual and invalisgn granted but non the less there are a lot more adults realizing the need for braces and going through with it.

The need for surgery is higher in adults than in children but not as high as the article might make it seem.

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Manjitsingh Bhalla said on 23 July 2014

Honestly, today’s dentistry has lot more innovations in dental treatments and related surgeries. Yes, the treatment of dental braces (orthodontics) has also been quite popular especially amongst youngsters, offering the curved and unaligned teeth a new life with accurately aligned teeth structure. It fixes one’s overbites, under bites and cross bites, giving much stable chewing movements. Aesthetically, you look dynamic with a lovely smile now. Cleaning of teeth and gum areas is also enhanced.

Looking at statistics given for effected children in United Kingdom, surely this dental technique seems like “must-have-invention”. Adults like those who lived with their life-long curse of curved teeth are now stress-free. They have this treatment being accessible at the time of their certain age they feel to get it fixed. Details given on types of braces and success rates of them are very helpful!

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Starbust said on 21 April 2014

Im under 15 so does that mean if i got to nhs, does tht mean i will get free braces or cheap braces not including private treatment?

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Demon5678 said on 20 April 2014

I can sadly say this was true 12 years ago when my mum was asked my dentist to provide braces. Mine wasn't severe enough and would improve as I grew or I could pay and they would do something!

My mum apologises now that she never pushed as I now have several gaps and a twisted incisor* (or fang as I refer to it) where a baby tooth was never removed until I was 17 and the Adult tooth grew sideways over it!

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SueBrighton said on 10 December 2013

I've just had the same experience as 50 year old dad - I was told by an Orthodontics in Hove that my daughter's need for braces wasn't sever enough to be paid for by the NHS and will cost £4,000-4,500. I find this quite shocking.

Can anyone tell me if it's true and if there is anywhere cheaper to find treatment.

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50 year old dad said on 11 November 2013

I have just been told by Total Orthodontics in Hove that for the past eleven years - only children with severe cases will be given treatment on the NHS. Any children with 'mild' problems need private treatment at the cost of nearly £4,000. Apparently this is not means tested.
Is this true ? Does that mean there are many thousands of 20 year olds out there with wonky teeth because their parents could not/did not pay for treatment ?

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