Common questions about orthodontics

Find out more about orthodontic treatment. These are some of the most frequently asked questions our team here at the Carousel Orthodontic Centre and Margaret River Orthodontics gets asked.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry that specialises in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems related to the alignment of the teeth and jaws. Common problems encountered include crooked or crowded teeth, protruding or “bucky” teeth and incorrect jaw development. The technical term for these problems is malocclusion, which literally means bad bite. Orthodontic treatment involves the design and use of corrective appliances (such as braces, plates or aligners) to bring the teeth and jaws into proper alignment for functional and cosmetic benefit. 

What’s the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a fully trained dentist who has completed a minimum of two years of work in general practice dentistry and an additional three years of full-time, university-based, postgraduate training in the field of orthodontics. Orthodontists hold a specialist registration with the Dental Board of Australia and as such do not perform general dental treatments such as fillings, extractions, crowns, veneers or tooth whitening. Most orthodontists in Australia are members of the Australian Society of Orthodontists and undergo regular peer assessment via the Australasian Orthodontic Board. Although some general dentists provide orthodontic treatments for their patients, they do not possess the same level of training in the field as a registered specialist orthodontist.

What’s the right age for orthodontic treatment?

The timing of orthodontic treatment is extremely important and greatly affects the final treatment result. Since no two patients are alike, there is no specific age that is best to begin treatment. The American Association of Orthodontists and Australian Society of Orthodontists recommend children receive a specialist orthodontic examination by age 7-8 years, if a parent or the family dentist identify a potential problem. Fortunately, not all children examined at a young age require immediate or urgent treatment. For those that do, interceptive treatment early in their growth allows orthodontists to achieve results that may not be possible when the dentition and facial skeleton has fully developed. Early treatment can prevent more serious problems from developing and greatly simplify future care.

Typically, comprehensive treatment with braces is started after all the permanent teeth have erupted but in some cases there is an advantage to starting just before the last baby teeth are lost. Therefore, from a biological (and social) perspective it is ideal for adolescents who present with most common orthodontic problems to undergo routine full braces treatment during the early high school years (age 12-15 years). Orthodontic treatment can be far more challenging and complex in older post-pubescent teens and adults; however, the basic biological process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age so it’s never too late.

How long will treatment take?

Treatment times vary significantly depending on the severity of the initial problem, type of orthodontic appliances used, patient age and patient compliance. Routine comprehensive orthodontic treatment with braces typically lasts between 18 and 24 months. Multi-stage treatments or very complex treatments in adults and some teenagers may take in excess of two years to complete.

How much does treatment cost?

Fees for comprehensive orthodontic treatment vary greatly depending on the nature and severity of the presenting problems, the age of the patient, the treatment method, the type of appliances used and the anticipated treatment duration. The total cost of treatment can vary between $900 and $9000 depending on the case. We can only provide an exact quotation once a thorough examination has been completed and all the relevant diagnostic information has been analysed.

Will I need to have teeth extracted?

We believe in a non-extraction treatment philosophy whenever possible here at the Carousel Orthodontic Centre. With this goal in mind, we stress the importance of early screenings and interceptive treatment for young children whenever it is indicated. Even with early treatment, sometimes removing permanent teeth is required to achieve the best orthodontic result - especially if there is severe dental crowding and protruding teeth to begin with. Recent research suggests that about 25% of patients will need teeth removed as part of their overall orthodontic treatment programme.

What are retainers?

At the completion of the active part of orthodontic treatment, the appliances are removed and retaining appliances (retainers) are fitted to hold the teeth steady in their new position while the surrounding bone and gums adjust around them. These appliances may be plastic removable plates or fixed wires fitted behind the teeth.

Can I get treatment for just on my top or bottom teeth?

Yes, but it is usually not recommended. Whilst we are primarily concerned with straightening teeth for cosmetic purposes and addressing our patient’s main concerns.We also need to make sure that the final bite relationship (occlusion) is comfortable and the teeth are stable at the end of treatment.

Generally, if only one arch is treated, the biting relationship between top and bottom teeth cannot be controlled properly and therefore the final bite will be quite uneven and maybe even worse than it was before treatment. Over time, an unbalanced bite can lead to orthodontic relapse, uneven wear of the teeth, damage to the gums and jaw joint pain/dysfunction. Therefore, with many orthodontic problems, correcting just top or bottom teeth alone would not be recommended and would only be offered as a compromise option with the inherent risks accepted by the patient before commencing.

Do I need my wisdom teeth removed after orthodontic treatment?

Sometimes. There is limited compelling evidence to suggest that routinely extracting wisdom teeth will prevent the front teeth from moving over time and therefore the third molars are no longer removed as a matter of routine. However, in many cases there are tangible benefits in extracting them soon after treatment has finished. For example - if a wisdom tooth has very limited space and cannot fully erupt, a local gum problem will usually develop over time. Episodes of acute gum infection can become very regular and chronic abscesses can form. Damage to the adjacent teeth is also possible. In these cases, the wisdom teeth should be removed. With the aid of a jaw radiograph (X-ray) taken near the completion of orthodontic treatment, we can advise on the status of third molars and potential future problems. In older patients, sometimes it is necessary to remove the wisdom teeth before treatment commences.

Do I still need to see a dentist during orthodontic treatment?

Yes. It is very important that orthodontic patients continue regular 6-monthly checks and cleans with their general dentist to ensure oral health is maintained. Orthodontic treatment may need to be put on hold or stopped altogether if there is a significant deterioration in oral health during the active treatment period.

To start your treatment journey with the team at the Carousel Orthodontic Centre, book your orthodontic consultation today.