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What is an orthodontist?

3-minute read

An orthodontist is a dental specialist who prevents, diagnoses and treats crooked or misaligned teeth and jaws. Orthodontic treatments aim to improve the way the teeth and jaws function, as well as the person’s smile or aesthetic appearance.

Orthodontists are highly trained

After completing a general dental degree and at least 2 years of practice as a dentist, an orthodontist undergoes a further 3 years of specialist training at university.

In Australia, most orthodontists are members of the Australian Society of Orthodontists. You can visit the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website to check if an orthodontist is registered both as a general dentist and a specialist dentist. 

What conditions do orthodontists treat?

Orthodontists treat children, teenagers and adults whose teeth are crooked, or whose jaws are not correctly aligned. They often treat bite problems caused by the upper and lower teeth not ‘fitting together’ properly.

Orthodontic treatment to straighten the teeth and correct a bite can take 18 months or more since the teeth need to be brought into correct alignment gradually.

The most common treatment, usually done in teenagers, is straightening or aligning of the teeth with metal braces or clear aligners. The person may have other appliances fitted, such as expansion plates, braces or bite-correcting springs.

Adults may prefer to have lingual braces, which are fitted to the inside of the teeth.

People commonly seek treatment from orthodontists when they have:

  • difficulty or pain with biting or chewing
  • crooked, uneven, protruding or crowded teeth
  • an underbite or overbite
  • jaws and teeth that are out of proportion to the rest of the face
  • problems breathing through the mouth or snoring
  • speech problems

Some people go to orthodontists to close wide gaps between their teeth or improve the appearance of their smile.

Where do orthodontists work?

Most orthodontists work in private practice or in clinics. Some also work in public hospitals.

They may work with dentists to improve people’s oral health. Orthodontists also work with oral and maxillofacial surgeons to correct problems such as deformed jaws.

How can I find an orthodontist?

You can ask your dentist to refer you to an orthodontist, but you don’t need a referral. Use the healthdirect service finder to locate an orthodontist near you.

How much will an orthodontist cost?

Orthodontic treatment is expensive. For example, an 18-month treatment plan using traditional metal braces can cost between $5,000 and $9,000. The costs are not covered by Medicare or the government’s national Child Dental Benefits Scheme.

Some states, such as South Australia and New South Wales, offer free or subsidised orthodontic treatment to certain eligible children through the public health system. The treatment may be limited to severe conditions.

The organisation Give a Smile, a charitable arm of the Australian Society of Orthodontists, also provides free braces to some children.

If you have private health insurance, the extras may include some of the costs of private orthodontic treatment. Before you or your children start on a course of orthodontic treatment, get quotes from a few orthodontists so you can compare them.

Find out how much your private health fund will pay. Some health funds have a 12-month waiting period before you can claim benefits for orthodontic treatment. You may be able to find an orthodontist who offers an interest-free payment plan.

For more information

Visit the Orthodontics Australia site for information on treatment and costs.

Last reviewed: August 2018

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