1. What is an orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a registered dental specialist in the field of orthodontics.  Orthodontics is the branch of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of alignment problems with the teeth and jaws. Orthodontic problems can influence the facial profile, airway patency and the condition of the jaw joints.

To become and orthodontist, you must first qualify as a general dentist by completing a Bachelor of Dental Science degree that consists of 5 or more years of full-time study.  You must then work as a general dentist for a minimum of 2 years to then apply for the specialist training programme, entry into which is highly competitive.

The orthodontic specialist training involves a further 3 years of full-time study for a Masters Degree in Dental Science (Orthodontics).  Only after a further year of supervised practice in the speciality of Orthodontics can you then register as a specialist orthodontist (11 years of training minimum from start to finish!)

2. Do I need a referral?

You do not need a referral to see an orthodontist. You may contact us directly to arrange a consultation today.

3. At what age should my child see an orthodontist?

The ideal age for a child to have an orthodontic examination is 7-8 years of age.  This gives the orthodontist the ability to assess the development of the teeth and jaws at an age when most children are acquiring their front teeth.

In many cases we will be able to detect problems that are developing with the teeth or jaws and do simple things that can alleviate those problems or avoid more complicated ones developing.

Many children will not require treatment at an early age but we will be able to give you a good indication of any future treatment needs. We also like to build a rapport with our younger patients under the circumstances that they don’t need treatment immediately.

4. Should I wait until the adult teeth erupt before my child sees an orthodontist?

No!  Many orthodontic problems can and should be addressed prior to the loss of the last of the baby teeth.  The timing for tooth eruption can also vary significantly between people.  Waiting for the eruption of all of the adult teeth can sometimes make the treatment required more complicated. In many cases, successful orthodontic treatment is timing critical as it involves manipulation of the jaw development for correction of bite problems.

Different problems require treatment at different ages and stages of physical and dental development. Your orthodontist is best qualified to advise you on the best timing for treatment.  Remember, an early consultation does not necessarily mean early treatment but it will give you the peace of mind of knowing where you stand in terms of dental development.

5. When does treatment normally start?

This depends on the nature of the orthodontic problem and the type of treatment required.

Some treatments may start around 7-8 years of age.  Examples include cross bite corrections, treatment for thumb or finger sucking habits or treatment for an “underbite”.

Comprehensive treatment with braces will often be started around 11-12 years of age but this depends heavily on the developmental status of the patient.  Dental development is highly variable so waiting for the eruption of all of the adult teeth is not a reliable way to best ascertain the ideal treatment timing.

There are many cases where commencing treatment prior to the loss of all of the baby teeth can make treatment simpler and sometimes avoid the need for extraction of teeth, so early consultations are advisable.

6. Will I need teeth extracted?

Whenever possible and appropriate, we endeavour to treat patients without extracting teeth.

Modern techniques in orthodontics have evolved to avoid extraction of teeth where previously that might have been the only option.  There are often techniques that we can use to avoid the extraction of teeth. These include expansion or distalizing treatments or the use of temporary anchorage devices (“TADS”).

For some patients, extraction of teeth might still be the best option and attempts to treatment them without extracting teeth can create problems such as instability or gum recession that can ultimately cause the loss of teeth.

An orthodontist is the most qualified person to advise you on which form of treatment is best for you. If you require extractions, we will show you animations of how and why teeth move and spaces are closed in extraction cases so you fully understand the basis for our recommendations.

There is a great deal of misinformation on the internet and in the media about the implications of extracting teeth.  There are many myths relating to the impact on the facial appearance and the health of the jaw joints that cause prospective patients unnecessary concern.  Dr Brooks will discuss the treatment that is best for you and outline the expected outcomes.

7. How long will my treatment take?

Treatment times depend on the individual treatment that you require and many other factors including how well you wear or maintain your appliances.  Teeth move at different rates in different people.

In addition, the time taken to complete treatment also depends on the quality of the end result you are aspiring to. Marketing claims on the internet of rapid treatment times must be taken into the context of the quality of the finished result. Our practice philosophy is to provide you with the highest quality outcome in the most efficient time frame possible to minimize your treatment time.

At your treatment planning consultation, Dr Brooks will provide you with an estimate of your probable treatment time.

8. Do you treat many adult patients?

Yes!  Approximately 25-30% of our patients with braces are adults and the proportion of adults undertaking orthodontic treatment is growing.  Our adult patients range in age from 18-60+ years of age. Quite a few of them are parents of patients who have made casual enquiries about orthodontic treatment for themselves. It is never too late to have orthodontic treatment.

Adults are often concerned about the appearance of braces or the impact that orthodontic treatment may have on them socially or professionally.  We have some great solutions in the way of ceramic brackets and Invisalign aligners for our adult patients. Orthodontic appliances are very different to those of a decade or so ago.  Modern appliances are much more discrete and more comfortable than those of previous generations. They do not have a significant impact on an adult’s lifestyle and our patients are still able to socialize, play musical instruments and play sports normally.

9. How much will my treatment cost?

Treatment fees depend on the nature and complexity of the required treatment.

As part of your treatment planning consultation we will confirm your treatment costs, discuss payment plan options and provide you with item numbers describing your treatment so you may investigate your health insurance rebates prior to commencing treatment.

We have interest free payment plans for braces treatment and direct debit facilities for your convenience.  Typically, a patient having braces treatment will pay an initial deposit followed by monthly instalments over a 12-18 month payment plan and this makes payment for the treatment quite manageable for our patients.

10. Do braces hurt?

Fitting braces is a painless and relatively simple procedure as the braces are simply glued to the teeth.  No needles or drilling of the teeth is necessary.

With the advent of modern braces and super-flexible wires, patients experience much less pressure on their teeth than in days gone by.  A teenager’s experience with braces these days is likely to be much more pleasant than that of their parents years ago!

Most patients experience a mild dull ache with their teeth for only the first few days after having their braces fitted.  A similar feeling might occur for a couple of days after having their braces adjusted.  Some patients express concern if they do not feel pressure on their teeth but it is important to remember that the teeth will still be moving even if you feel no discomfort or pressure.

Some patients will experience some minor irritation to the lips or cheeks in the first couple of weeks after the braces have been fitted.  You will be provided with orthodontic wax to smooth any areas as needed.  If you have any persistent problems, please contact us so we can help.

11. Do I have to wear metal braces?

No!  We have the latest ceramic brackets available that provide a great aesthetic alternative to metal braces. Invisalign clear tooth aligners may also be a treatment option for you.

Coloured elastics may be used in conjunction with metal braces to make braces fun for our younger patients.

12. Are there foods I cannot eat with braces?

Yes.  In order to avoid breaking your braces you should avoid all hard or sticky foods.  Breakages can really delay your treatment by several months so to ensure your treatment progresses smoothly you need to avoid certain foods.  You must avoid:

  • nuts and popcorn
  • hard lollies and refrigerated chocolate
  • hard biscuits
  • hard crusted or multigrain/ seeded breads
  • muesli, muesli bars and hard cereals
  • carrots and carrot sticks, raw celery
  • whole apples (you can cut them into thin slices to eat)
  • sucking or chewing ice, whether crushed or not
  • chewing pens, pencils, fingernails
  • chewing meat off the bone
  • hard pizza crust
  • chewing gum, bubble gum
13. Do braces damage teeth?

No.  Braces are glued to the surface of the teeth and can be removed with no damage to the tooth.   Poor brushing and oral hygiene can cause surface staining and decay around the braces that is obvious when they are removed but this is entirely avoidable.

We will give you comprehensive advice on how to clean with braces and provide you with a care pack including a braces toothbrush and super floss at your banding appointment.  We will check your cleaning at every appointment and give you any advice necessary to clean well during your treatment.

14. Can I have braces on just my upper or lower teeth only?

In some cases simple alignment of the teeth is possible by treating the upper or lower teeth in isolation.

In many cases, aligning the teeth will alter the bite and make it uneven if treatment is attempted with only upper or lower braces.  An important objective of orthodontic treatment is to leave you with not only straight teeth but also an even functioning bite. With braces on only one set of teeth, the orthodontist has no control over your bite. An uneven bite may predispose you to tenderness or pain with the teeth, jaw joints and jaw muscles, or excessive tooth wear and in some cases speech may be affected.

Dr Brooks will assess your situation and advise on the best course of treatment for you.

15. Do I still need to see my dentist during orthodontic treatment?

Yes.  You will still need to see your dentist for routine dental examinations and cleaning at least every 6 months or more frequently if advised by Dr Brooks.

For teeth to move normally the supporting tissues (gums and surrounding bone) must be maintained in optimal health and your dentist/ periodontist will be able to assist with this.

16. Can I still play my normal sports during orthodontic treatment?

Yes. We suggest wearing a mouthguard for any sports where there is a risk of injury to the teeth or face, even during orthodontic treatment.

Traditional custom fitted mouthguards are rarely practical during active orthodontic treatment as they will cease to fit as the teeth move and cannot be remoulded.  We can assist with re-mouldable mouthguards that function well during braces treatment.