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Orthodontic treatments

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Orthodontic treatments are dental procedures that help to straighten your teeth and correct problems with your bite.
  • You might need orthodontic treatment for many reasons.
  • The orthodontist will examine your mouth and face, and take x-rays,or make plaster or digital models of your teeth.
  • Treatment often involves using appliancescalled braces to straighten crooked teeth or to correct problems with your bite.

What are orthodontic treatments?

Orthodontic treatments help to straighten your teeth and correct problems with your bite.

These treatments are often done by an orthodontist, who is a specialist dentist.

Orthodontists treat children, teenagers and adults.

Many general dentists also provide some orthodontic treatments.

How do I know when I need orthodontic treatment

You might need orthodontic treatment for:

  • crooked teeth or teeth that stick out
  • a bad bite — which is how your upper and lower jaws meet when your mouth closes
  • a poorly aligned jaw
  • gaps between your teeth
  • problems with speaking, breathing or chewing

An orthodontist can also assess your child’s developing teeth and jaws. They can also help manage thumb or finger-sucking habits.

Do I need a referral to see an orthodontist?

You don’t need a referral to see an orthodontist.

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What happens during orthodontic treatment?

The orthodontist will probably talk to you and examine your mouth and face. They will:

  • take x-rays
  • make plaster or digital models of your teeth

They will talk to you about the treatment they suggest. Treatment often involves using appliances called braces to straighten crooked teeth or to correct problems with your bite.

There are many different types of braces, including the traditional metal type. Other types are:

  • clear or tooth-coloured braces
  • braces worn on the inside surface of your teeth
  • clear, removable 'aligners'

Wearing braces might feel strange in the beginning. If your discomfort doesn’t disappear, tell your orthodontist. They might be able to make adjustments.

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

Treatment usually takes about 1 to 3 years. You will need to see your orthodontist regularly for check-ups.

After your braces are removed, you may need to wear a retainer. This is a device that helps keep your teeth in position. This is because teeth tend to move back to their original position over time.

The device might be used only at night, or it might be used permanently. You can discuss this with the orthodontist.

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

The cost of treatment will vary depending on your situation. Ask your orthodontist for a quote so that you know what to expect.

It's a good idea to check that your quote covers:

  • pre-treatment assessment
  • regular consultations and any emergency appointments
  • x-rays and digital scans of your teeth
  • a custom mold or digital model of your teeth and bite
  • orthodontic appliances and other care items such as orthodontic wax and elastics
  • post-treatment retainers
  • follow up reviews

If you have health insurance, check whether you can claim some costs.

What are the benefits and risks of orthodontic treatment?

Orthodontic treatment can help improve your appearance and your bite. It can also help if you have problems with speaking, breathing and chewing.

Having straight teeth can:

  • stop damage from a bad bite
  • stop tooth wear
  • improve the health of your mouth

However, orthodontic treatment takes a long time and can be costly.

As with anything new, it may take you some time to adjust to wearing braces. You also need to learn how to take care of your appliance.

When you first start treatment, you may experience some:

  • toothache or mild discomfort
  • scratches and ulcers inside your mouth

Orthodontic treatment is not suitable if you have unhealthy teeth and gums.

If you have braces, it’s very important to:

  • clean your teeth properly
  • avoid too much sugary food
  • avoid too much soft drink

These may lead to white spots on your teeth or tooth decay.

However, your orthodontist will be checking your teeth regularly, so any problems can be addressed early.

Resources and support

You should talk to your health professional about the benefits and risks of getting a medical implant. Use the Therapeutic Goods Administration's guide on what to ask. The information is also in:

  • Arabic
  • Croatian
  • Farsi
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

Find out more about teeth straightening and braces at

Read all about braces, aligners and retainers or search for an orthodontist at Orthodontics Australia.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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