Please note: The information provided on this page is general orthodontic information and does not cover in detail all the aspects and complexities of orthodontic treatment. Please seek the advice of an oral health professional for further information.

Orthodontics is a type of dentistry that corrects teeth and jaw alignment problems using devices such as dental braces (fixed appliances), plates and headgear. Orthodontic treatment is often recommended to correct problems such as a protruding lower jaw, protruded upper teeth (buck teeth) or crooked and crowded teeth. Early intervention and treatment is often preferred to prevent more serious problems from developing. As the basic process involved in moving teeth is the same at any age, orthodontic treatement is also often successful for adults. When to start orthodontic treatment (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)

What orthodontic treatment involves

The orthodontist or dentist will take detailed records of your teeth and jaws, diagnose the problem, plan the treatment and carry out the care.

Read about a normal course of orthodontic treatment (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)

The range of corrective orthodontic devices includes:

  • Dental braces (fixed appliances) - tiny brackets are attached to the front of each tooth and wires are threaded through. The gentle and consistent pressure of the braces slowly moves and correctly repositions the teeth. The braces generally need to be adjusted by the orthodontist or dentist every month or two. Read more about braces (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)
  • Rubber bands - During treatment, patients may need to have rubber bands attached for additional force for the correction of bite. More about rubber bands (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)
  • Retainers - These are used when the braces are removed and retaining appliances (retainers) are fitted to hold teeth steady in their new position. More about retainers (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)
  • Headgear - This is used most often to restrict forward growth of a prominent upper jaw in a growing patient. More about headgear (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)

Risks of orthodontic treatment

Some of the risks of orthodontic treatment include:

  • Dental hygiene problems – braces and wires make cleaning the teeth more difficult. This can cause tooth decay, discolouration and permanent marks.
  • Soft tissue injury – the braces may dig into or traumatise the gums and cheeks.
  • Relapse – the corrected teeth may misalign themselves again, once the braces are removed. This risk is the most important reason why generally it will be suggested that retainer plates are worn after removal of braces.

Read more about the risks of orthodontic treatment (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)

Caring for your mouth with orthodontic treatment

It is very important that you clean your braces or plate every time you brush your teeth. Braces can act as a ‘plaque trap’, increasing the amount of plaque on yourteeth, which can lead to tooth decay, tooth discolouration and gum disease.

The best ways to clean your mouth while wearing dental braces (Aust. Society of Orthodontists)

Information for patients seeking public orthodontic treatment at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne

  • All patients must be eligible for public dental care
  • All patients must have referral forms completed by a general public dentist from a Community dental clinic.
  • Excellent oral hygiene (tooth cleaning) is necessary to be considered suitable for fixed appliances (braces).
  • Treatment is not available for cosmetic reasons alone.
  • Patients over 17 are only accepted if there are significant oral health problems which cannot be managed by other means.

For further information please call the Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne on (03) 9341 1000 or 1800 833 039 (country callers)

Images on this page are courtesy of the Australian Society of Orthodontists