Orthodontics is the dental term for straightening teeth that are out of alignment.

The aim is to improve the appearance of your smile, as well as helping your teeth fit together more closely. This helps make chewing or speaking easier and may be referred to by your dentist as ‘function’.

Once orthodontic treatment has been completed, a retainer is needed to ensure the teeth stay straight. A retainer may be a removable appliance that the patient wears on a part time basis, or it may be fixed permanently to the teeth. Your dentist will discuss the most suitable option for retention with you.

Adults do not typically qualify for orthodontic treatment under the NHS but many dentists or specialist orthodontists offer private treatment as well.

There is no set time for how long orthodontics will take to be completed. Depending on the case, the treatment can take anything from several months to several years.

Orthodontics: what are my options?

Traditional orthodontics involve the use of fixed appliances (often called ‘train tracks’). These use brackets fixed to the teeth and metal wires to gradually bring the teeth into the correct position.

However, in recent years new technologies have been developed that provide alternatives to fixed appliances, or make them less obvious. These alternatives may be called ‘invisible’, ‘aesthetic’ or ‘short-term’ orthodontic systems by your dentist.

Not all of these alternatives are suitable for treating every case. Depending on your particular treatment needs, you may still need to consider traditional orthodontics over some of the newer systems. Your dentist will discuss the available options with you before going ahead.

Clear, or tooth-coloured brackets and thinner wires have been developed for use with traditional orthodontic systems that make them less obtrusive.

Lingual orthodontics involve brackets and wires in the same way that traditional orthodontics do, but these are placed on the back surface of your lower teeth so are less noticeable.

Some systems use removable aligners to straighten your teeth. These are similar to mouthguards or retainers in that they are made individually to fit your teeth. You will be given a new clear plastic aligner every few weeks that move your teeth into position. Although aligners are not completely invisible, it can be very difficult for anyone to tell that you are wearing them.


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