Braces: Frequently asked questions

If you’re considering orthodontics for yourself or your child, you may have several questions about the treatment. Find out the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Braces and aligners are appliances used by dentists to correct a variety of teeth concerns. These include crooked teeth, overcrowding, protruding teeth, gaps between teeth and bite issues such as an overbite or open-bite. The appliances apply gentle, gradual pressure to your teeth to gently guide them to the final position. Options include fixed braces, removable metal braces and clear aligners:

  • Fixed braces: A popular, predictable option, fixed braces are made up of brackets attached to your teeth and joined by a wire. Depending on your needs, different types are available. These include traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces and lingual braces.
  • Removable metal braces: These are removable devices which clip onto the arches (sets of teeth) of the upper or lower jaw, gently guiding your teeth from both sides. Options include Inman aligners.
  • Clear, removable aligners: Clear aligners are made of thin, flexible, transparent plastic that’s moulded to fit comfortably over your teeth. Treatment options include Invisalign aligners. 

The cost of braces depends on which type of brace is chosen, what you’d like to achieve, and the complexity of the case. After your orthodontic consultation, the dentist or orthodontist will go through a bespoke treatment plan, including the costs involved.

Finance options are available at some Bupa practices*, helping you spread the cost. Ask your local practice for more details.

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NHS orthodontic treatment isn’t typically available for adults, unless deemed clinically necessary by a specialist orthodontist. So, most adults will need to access private treatment.

Under 18s can access free NHS orthodontic care, if they meet certain criteria. They will need to be referred by their dentist to a specialist orthodontist, who’ll assess eligibility. NHS treatment typically uses traditional metal braces which are available in a range of colours. Learn more.

An orthodontist is a specialist who focuses on teeth straightening and bite correction. Specialist orthodontists first qualify as dentists before undertaking full-time study in orthodontics.

At Bupa Dental Care, we have both experienced orthodontists and dentists who carry out teeth straightening. All our dentists are fully certified in the orthodontic systems they provide.

For adults and children, orthodontics can correct a range of concerns, including bite issues, speech difficulties and problems with eating. Crooked or wonky teeth may affect your confidence and can lead to oral and general health issues, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

According to the NHS, one third of children require orthodontic treatment.1 In severe cases of crowded, protruding or missing teeth, overbite or underbite, or anything that prevents teeth from growing normally, a dentist will refer a child to a specialist orthodontist. The specialist orthodontist will use a scale called the IOTN (Index of Treatment Need) to assess if the child is eligible for NHS care.

If your child isn’t eligible for NHS orthodontics, private treatment is available, which includes more discreet brace and aligner options.

Orthodontics can treat most overbite concerns. During your initial consultation the dentist or orthodontist will carry out a full assessment of your teeth and recommend suitable treatment options.

After braces are fitted and adjusted, and when you change aligners, you can expect initial discomfort, until your mouth adjusts. In some cases, the aligner edges or brackets on your braces can rub onto the gums and cheeks.

These symptoms are only temporary, and you should quickly adjust to your brace. You can also use remedies to ease any discomfort.

Fixed braces are small brackets that are attached to each tooth and joined by a wire. The wire is tightened during your treatment to gently move your teeth until they reach their new position.

Clear aligners are worn in a series to gradually realign your smile. Your dentist will fit the first set, when ready, and check they’re comfortable. Every six to eight weeks, your clinician will check progress and provide you with a new set of aligners.

Duration of treatment depends on the complexity of the case and type of brace used. After an initial consultation, your dentist or orthodontist will develop your bespoke treatment plan, including an estimated treatment duration.

Cosmetic teeth straightening is an option that involves straightening the front, visible teeth only, and can take as little as six months. It’s a cosmetic fix only, so if you have a clinical requirement for orthodontics, cosmetic straightening won’t be suitable.

There is no upper age limit to having braces fitted. Children usually have treatment around age 10 to 15, but younger children may be accepted in certain cases.

If you wear braces, the shape of your face may change gradually as your teeth move, becoming more balanced and symmetrical. This is because treatments to correct overbites or overjets can alter the relative positions of your upper and lower jaw. Similarly, straightening protruding or misaligned teeth will change the pressure on your lips or cheeks, changing their outline slightly.

If you have traditional fixed braces, different colours are available. You can either opt for grey or silver, to match the metal brackets, or you can choose from a range of colours.

Another option is clear, ceramic braces. These are just like traditional braces but with discreet, clear brackets.

If you have fixed braces, it’s best to avoid foods that could damage the wires, including sticky, hard or crunchy foods, such as toffee, raw carrot and nuts. If you have removable braces or aligners, your diet isn’t impacted, but your braces should be removed for eating and drinking, and you should avoid sugar between meals. Find out more about caring for your braces or aligners.

To access NHS orthodontic care, you’ll need a referral from your usual dentist to a specialist orthodontist, who’ll determine your suitability.

If you or your child isn’t eligible for NHS care, or would prefer a private option, contact your nearest practice to book an orthodontics consultation. They'll examine your smile, discuss your needs then recommend the best treatment options.

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Bupa Dental Care is a trading name of Oasis Dental Care Limited. Registered in England and Wales No: 00478127. Registered office: Bupa Dental Care, Vantage Office Park, Old Gloucester Road, Hambrook, Bristol, United Kingdom BS16 1GW.

Oasis Dental Care Limited has a number of trading names including Bupa Dental Care. For a list of all our different trading names please follow this link.

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