What is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialist treatment to rectify badly crooked or crowded teeth. This is usually means having an extraction or brace system fitted. You may be self-conscious about your teeth or they may be causing you discomfort. Treatment under the NHS is free for patients under the age of 18, subject the initial assessment by the Orthodontist.

Although generally used to treat children, adults are increasingly having short-term orthodontic treatments.

Typical treatment length

12 – 18 months

What is the process?


On the NHS, those under 18 with significantly crooked teeth will be referred to an Orthodontist by their Dentist. Alternatively, adults can contact any Orthodontic practice directly for private treatment. This is known as ‘self-referral’.

Initial Assessment

To be referred as an NHS patient, your dental alignment or bite has to be of sufficient severity. For example, your Orthodontist will look at how much of the teeth protrude, how crooked they are and if there are any missing teeth. This process is actually quite strict as the NHS asks the Orthodontist to carry out an initial assessment and define the severity according to a special scale. You also have to be under 18 to qualify.


After the initial assessment has been completed, you or your child will be told if you qualify for NHS treatment. If your child is not eligible for NHS treatment, it is possible to have treatment on a private basis and in both cases, the Orthodontist will present the possible treatment options available to you. After you agree to go ahead, the Orthodontist will then carry out the treatment followed by a series of regular check-ups. These check-ups may include adjustments to your brace. You should continue your regular dental check-up appointment with your dentist during orthodontic treatment. For NHS treatment, stainless steel ‘train-track’ braces are usually used. In some cases removable braces may also be necessary. There are other types of brace available privately and only if they are suitable for your teeth.

Depending on the type of brace chosen, there will usually be a couple of fitting appointments and then regular check-ups every 8 -12 weeks to maintain and adjust the brace.


After your Brace is removed, your Orthodontist will fit a retainer which can be either removable or fixed to the insides of the teeth. Retainers help keep the teeth straight after your Brace is removed. Once the treatment is complete the Orthodontist will liaise with your dentsist to monitor your orthodontic result.