The process starts with a referral to an orthodontist from your dentist. You may be fortunate in that your dental practice offers this service but it is likely to be private rather than NHS treatment.
In most cases you will be referred to an orthodontist. The consultation will take place in either his/her practice or at a hospital.
Every patient is different with different needs and requirements. So the orthodontist will plan an individual course of treatment which suits your needs only. This will be agreed between the two of you.
What to ask the orthodontist
You will have a few questions for the orthodontist which is fine. You may find it easier to make a list of questions beforehand which you can refer to and make notes on. This removes the worry of forgetting something which you recall later on or not remembering everything that was said during the consultation.
Use these questions as a rough guide:
- What type of orthodontic treatment will I need?
- Why do I need this treatment?
- What are the benefits of this treatment?
- What are the risks of this treatment?
- What can I expect from this treatment?
- What does the price include?
The consultation will involve a discussion between you and the orthodontist followed by an assessment. This assessment will include an examination of your teeth and jaws which is then followed by a series of tests. These tests will include x-rays, photographs and an impression of your teeth.
An impression involves you biting into a mould filled with dental putty which leaves an ‘impression’ of your teeth. This is used to help design your corrective device, e.g. brace.
After these tests the orthodontist will discuss the various treatments with you. Please bear in mind that treatment can take more than a couple of years so it is important that you understand this from the outset. Plus you need to be satisfied with what it discussed and what the treatment entails.
The orthodontist will discuss the benefits and risks of treatment with you: your part in the treatment process, i.e. level of commitment and treatment start date.
Start of orthodontic treatment
This will depend upon the following factors:
- If you have a full set of permanent teeth
- Dental hygiene: if you have poor oral hygiene, e.g. tooth decay then this will have to be treated beforehand.
- Length of waiting list
- Whether your treatment is a high priority or not
Treatment is usually carried out by the orthodontist will assistance from his/her staff. If you need a tooth extraction then your own dentist will perform that function.
The most common form of treatment is a brace. There are various types of braces which are discussed on an individual basis within this section. But in general they include:
- Removable braces
- Fixed braces
- Functional braces
This also includes similar devices such as retainers and dental splints. Braces are either fixed into the mouth or removable and are made from a range of materials which includes plastic, metal and ceramic.
Will I need an extraction?
This is an issue which worries some patients who dislike the thought of having a tooth or teeth removed as part of their treatment plan. But fewer extractions are performed nowadays as compared to the past.
Advances in dental technology have led to newer types of braces such as functional braces which help create extra space in the upper/lower jaw which removes the need for an extraction.
Plus many braces or similar devices help to widen the jaw which is particularly useful in cases of overcrowded teeth. This also means no extractions.
However, there are still cases where extraction is advisable and will contribute to the success of the orthodontic treatment.
The orthodontist will advise you about whether extractions are needed. He/she will do this after the assessment which is based upon your individual needs. This decision is only made after an assessment and not before.