Dental Braces and Orthodontics

Braces are in high demand. In the UK more than 200,000 adults and children began orthodontic treatment in the past year. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about treatment with braces.

Why would I need to have braces?

The purpose of this orthodontic treatment is to make the most of your teeth, to ensure that your teeth come together properly in an even bite. This includes allowing you to bite correctly, eat more comfortably, and care for your teeth and gums more easily. And of course, your smile will benefit from more evenly spaced teeth too. Treatment will usually take from about 18 months to two years, with visits to the orthodontist every four to six weeks.

How common is orthodontic treatment?

According to figures produced by the British Orthodontic Society, over two hundred thousand people began their orthodontic treatment in England and Wales in the period 2014-15. The vast majority of these patients were children. Braces are usually most successful in children. Fewer than 1 in 100 orthodontic patients will be adults – but it is true that more adults than ever now want treatment, many having missed out on the appropriate orthodontic treatment when they were children.

Are braces available on the NHS?

Orthodontic treatment is available free on the NHS for children under eighteen and at a standard charge for complex dental treatment, if the need for treatment is great enough. All minor problems are considered cosmetic and you would be charged privately. Adults with minor cosmetic fixes aren't eligible for treatment on the NHS.

What about private treatment?

Private treatment is available widely, but it can be expensive. The British Orthodontic Society suggests around £2000 to £2500 for a course of treatment although fees can be much higher. The advantage of private treatment is a wider range of braces to choose from including the very popular clear or invisible types.

What's the best age to have braces?

Ideally around 12 or 13, while a child is still growing. The opportunity for improvement in an adult is likely to be limited and surgery may more commonly be needed.

How do I get braces fitted?

You will need a referral to an orthodontist by your dentist.


To check the qualifications of your orthodontist, you might use the definitive list of specialist orthodontists that is available through the General Dental Council.

What kinds of braces are there?

There are many different types. Some are removable, and can be taken out at night, to eat or to clean. Others stay in all the time. NHS braces will be made of metal, but ceramic and plastic ones are available privately. Some are clear, and can hardly be seen on your teeth.

What different types of braces are there?

The most commonly used braces are:

  • Fixed braces - The most common type of braces that remain fixed in position in the mouth with brackets glued in place on the teeth and connected with wires.
  • Removable braces: In these braces the wires will be connected to a plastic plate that covers the roof of the mouth and clip onto the teeth that are targeted for treatment where only limited tooth movement is needed.
  • Functional appliances: Here removable plastic braces work on both the lower and upper teeth.
  • Headgear: This would normally be worn at night and would be used to help to move back teeth.
  • Retainers: Retainers are either removable or fixed and will hold the teeth in place while the gums and bone adjust to the new positioning and will stop the teeth moving back to their original position.
  • Check out Newer technologies - invisible or lingual braces may be available with some practitioners.

How successful will treatment with braces be?

Orthodontics usually work very well, but looking after your teeth while you're wearing braces is essential too. Food can become trapped in braces and cause a greater accumulation of plaque. Extra care must be taken cleaning your teeth and you should also watch what you eat. Avoid sugary foods and drinks and see your dentist regularly while you are having your orthodontic treatment.

How long will the braces have to be worn?

  • That will depend on how much work is needed.
  • Fixed braces - between 12 and 24 months, longer for severe problems. Removable braces - Less time than a fixed brace usually, but before and after you have finished your treatment, you might need to wear some fixed braces.

Your dental team or orthodontist will advise you about the best way to care for your braces and teeth. If you don't follow this advice the treatment might take longer to work or even be unsuccessful. A damaged or broken brace will also delay treatment.

How often should I visit my dentist while I am having treatment with braces?

The brace will have to be adjusted regularly to make it work properly. An appointment will be necessary about every 6 to 8 weeks. It is very important to keep these appointments, or it will take a lot longer for the brace to work.

Will I have soreness in my between visits?

A mouth will always be very sensitive to change and it will take a few days for you to get accustomed to the feel of wearing your brace. Initially your teeth might feel uncomfortable because of the pressure that the brace puts on them. It may also feel uncomfortable and tight against your teeth after an adjustment has been made. Ordinary painkillers will help. Some parts of the brace might cause discomfort to your lips and gums, giving rise to sore spots. Your dental team will be able to give you a clear wax to put on the part of the brace that is causing you discomfort. However, if after a few days there is any soreness, you should go back to your dental professional.

Will my speech be affected?

Initially you might experience problems in pronouncing some words. And you might lisp. Most people soon adapt and begin to speak clearly after a few days.

Is there anything I should avoid doing?

Try not to bite your nails or chew a pen or pencil because this could break or damage your brace.

Can I continue with my sports while I am wearing my brace?

If you are wearing a removable brace ideally you should take it out and put it in a brace case while you play sports. You can get one from your dentist, or from most large pharmacies. It is important to use a mouth-guard while you play sport and then replace the brace as soon as possible. It will also be a good idea to take your braces out for swimming. If you have been fitted with a fixed brace try a mouth guard designed for specifically for use during contact sports that fits over the brace. Your dental team will be able to make one for you.

Will I still be able to play my musical instrument?

Braces can impact on the ability to play wind instruments, although with practice you will get accustomed to it. Removable braces can be removed and stored in a brace case. Replace it immediately you finish playing.

Will I be able to eat normally?

Eating the wrong food might damage or break your braces. Keep to soft foods for the first few days. Whatever type of brace you have been fitted with, avoid chewy, sticky, and sugary foods. Chewing gum can stick to your braces. Hard foods such as whole apples, carrots, crusty rolls and French bread are also best avoided as they might break the wires and brackets that are part of your brace.


Food might build up in brackets and between your teeth and always needs careful cleaning to remove it.


Avoid fizzy drinks, and natural fruit juices. These are high in sugar and can also be acidic. This might lead to tooth decay and erosion and additionally fizzy drinks may also stain the brackets of your brace. If you must drink these types of drinks, use a straw. Water and plain milk are the best drinks.

Why is it so important that I look after my mouth when I am wearing braces?

This is very important and will help avoid problems like tooth decay, inflamed gums, as well as 'tooth decalcification'. Decalcification is when the calcium from the surface of your teeth is eroded, potentially leaving white spots on the teeth after the brace is removed. It is also important to keep your check-up appointments with your regular dental team to make sure that your teeth and mouth remain healthy.

What if I lose my brace or it gets damaged?

If this happens tell your dental team or orthodontist as soon as you can and don’t wait for your next appointment. If you are not wearing your brace, or if it is not in the correct position, your treatment will be affected and it will make it more likely that your teeth will go back to their old position. You may be charged for lost or broken braces.

How best can I clean my mouth and my brace?

You must clean your teeth and the braces thoroughly after every meal. Don’t brush your teeth until at least one hour after you have eaten paying special attention to each tooth and to the gum line around each tooth.

What products can help me to look after my mouth and brace?

Total care toothpastes have active ingredients such as fluoride or tartar control agents making them effective multi-action toothpastes. They help to control plaque, tooth decay and gum disease, and keep your breath fresh too.


Use an electric or ‘power' toothbrush, with care, provided you can get to all your teeth. Ask your dental team for special small brushes suitable for cleaning your teeth while wearing a brace.


‘Interdental' brushes will help you to clean a fixed brace. They get in between your teeth and are ideal for the brackets of a fixed brace. Your dental team or pharmacy should have these. Use floss to help you get under the orthodontic wires to remove trapped food particles.


Disclosing tablets have a harmless dye that stains dental plaque and makes it easier to see where plaque is when you brush. It helps you to make sure that you are brushing your teeth properly. Your dentist, pharmacist or supermarket will stock these.


Using mouth rinses can help prevent tooth decay as well as tooth decalcification. You should only use them if they are recommended by your dental team or orthodontist and always follow the instructions they give you.

What is the best way to clean removable brace?

You will be shown special techniques for cleaning your brace that you should clean over a sink full of water so that it won't be damaged if you drop it. Keep a toothbrush just for cleaning your brace and use toothpaste to clean it. Gently brush your brace and then rinse it with fresh water afterwards.


At Dentists Near Me we have a great selection of dental professionals who specialise in fitting braces. Search by price or location, by opening hours or even by public transport or car parking facilities.