Orthodontic treatment is used to improve the appearance, position and function of crooked or abnormally arranged teeth.
Orthodontic treatment can straighten the teeth and move them into a better position.
Healthcare professionals specialising 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.
The length of treatment will depend on how complicated the problem is, but it's usually between 18 and 24 months.
Read more about the types of orthodontic treatment.
Who needs orthodontic treatment?
Many people have crowded or crooked teeth, or their teeth don't meet correctly when they bite. These problems can mean the teeth are more likely to become damaged or put a strain on jaw muscles.
In some cases, abnormal development of the teeth and jaw can affect the shape of the face.
Problems with crooked and out-of-place teeth are quite common in the UK. It's thought 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, because of the high demand for treatment, there can be a long waiting list for NHS orthodontic treatment.
If you don't 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.
Keeping your braces clean
A common complication of orthodontics is tooth decay. Your mouth is full of bacteria that combine with small food particles and saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque. which leads to plaque and causes the enamel to decay.
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 using toothpaste with high levels of fluoride or a mouthwash that contains fluoride. You should also try to avoid sugary foods and fizzy drinks.
Read more about how to maintain good dental health.
Page last reviewed: 11/12/2014
Next review due: 11/12/2016