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Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment can help improve the look and function of irregularly positioned teeth, using specially designed appliances. This kind of treatment can provide a host of benefits including a straighter smile, improved eating and speaking ability, better oral hygiene and enhanced facial shape.

NHS braces are available for children (under 18) who are clinically in need of treatment. Although teeth straightening is becoming increasingly popular with adults, NHS treatment is not usually available for those over 18, unless there are sufficient health reasons.

The first stage of treatment involves assessing your teeth so we can work out which kind of appliance would be most suitable. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove teeth prior to having a brace fitted.

What sort of braces do the NHS provide?

The NHS can provide a range of orthodontic appliances depending on the individual case and the main types include:

  • Fixed braces
  • Removable braces
  • Functional braces
  • Headgear

Fixed braces

The most common type of orthodontic appliance available on the NHS, fixed braces are made from metal and consist of brackets with wires that are held in place with elastic bands. They are used when a number of teeth need correcting or when more precision is required.

At regular tightening appointments, the thin wire is manipulated and over time will eventually shrink back to its original shape, effectively pulling the teeth with it so they are guided to their desired destination.

NHS fixed braces are visible on your teeth but modern designs and smaller brackets mean they are far less noticeable than they once were. These braces can also be customised with coloured elastics so they are more appealing to younger patients.

Removable braces

These consist of a plastic plate with wires and can used to gently correct minor problems or prepare teeth for treatment with a fixed brace, which offers more precise tooth movements.

They can be taken out for cleaning or other activities, such as sport or playing a wind instrument, but should be worn as much as possible to ensure the quickest, most effective results.

Functional braces

These can be used to help treat prominent upper teeth and can improve how teeth in the upper and lower jaw fit together. Functional braces can also be taken out but should only be removed for short periods.


This is used to correct the position of the back teeth or keep them in place while the front teeth are being treated. Headgear generally only needs to be worn for a few hours in the evening or while sleeping.

Do braces hurt?

Your teeth may feel a little sore after your brace is first fitted and following a tightening appointment, but over-the-counter painkillers should help relieve any discomfort.

Looking after your braces

It is important to maintain excellent oral hygiene throughout your orthodontic treatment to prevent any damage to your teeth that may result from not removing food debris from the brace.

How long does treatment take?

Depending on your particular case, treatment will take between 12-24 months and if you have been fitted with fixed braces, you will also need to attend tightening appointments every 4-6 weeks.

After treatment

To keep your straightened teeth in place, and as a continuing part of your orthodontic treatment, you will need to wear a retainer. This will make sure your teeth stay put while the surrounding gum and bone adjusts to their new position.

If you don’t wear your retainer as advised, your teeth may start to move back to their pre-treatment state.