Frequently Asked Questions

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialised area of dentistry dedicated to improving the appearance and alignment of irregularly placed teeth using appliances such as braces and retainers. Orthodontic treatment is also used to correct problems with bad bites (malocclusions) and other jaw irregularities.

Orthodontists are highly trained and take further specialist postgraduate examinations, after their dental study, in order to practice in this field.

The main reason for undertaking orthodontic treatment is to improve the way the teeth fit together for better function and the long-term well-being of the teeth. But for many patients, the most important benefit of orthodontics is the increased confidence and self-esteem that comes with an improved smile.

Do I need to be referred by a dentist for an orthodontic consultation?

It is not essential to be referred by a dentist. However, it is important that your teeth and gums are healthy before starting orthodontic work. At Moira Wong Orthodontics, we also have a family dental practice that can provide check-ups and treatment if required.

How old does a child need to be for orthodontic treatment to begin?

We recommend a child has a consultation with an orthodontist around the age of 7 or 8. This will enable the orthodontist to identify any issues your child may have with their teeth in the future and plan to avoid them. It reduces the complexity and length of treatment to identify and carry out orthodontic as early as possible, and you should not wait until your child has all of his or her permanent teeth before getting in touch.

For more detail on this, read our page on interceptive orthodontics.

Am I too old for orthodontic treatment?

Adult orthodontic treatment is very popular, and there is no upper limit for starting treatment. Many older people want to improve their aesthetic appearance and gain a bright, straight smile. However, the condition of teeth and gums can be an issue for some adults, for example, any gum disease has to be dealt with before orthodontic treatment can start. In practice, adults can be treated at any age as long as the gums and the bone holding the teeth are healthy.

For more detail, read our page on adult orthodontics.

How long will treatment last?

In general, active treatment time for orthodontic work usually ranges from one to three years. Minor corrective work can take as little as six months. The precise time depends on the severity of the problem and the cooperation of the patient. At your first consultation, the orthodontist will usually outline the proposed treatment plan and be able to give a more specific indication of how long the work will take.

What types of braces are there?

Braces provide a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction to slowly move teeth through their supporting bone to a new desirable position. The specific type of brace you will need may be recommended by your orthodontist, or you might be offered a choice depending on your budget. Braces can be removable or fixed. The most common types are traditional (metal or ceramic), lingual or invisible.

In a recent blog, we reviewed what to consider when choosing the type of brace that is right for you.

 Does having braces hurt?

Having your orthodontic appliance fitted is not usually painful, although it is common to have slightly tender teeth for 3-5 days after each fitting and adjustment appointment. The tightness normally disappears quite soon after. Any pain that is experienced can usually be treated by over-the-counter pain relief, such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol.

In a recent blog, we reviewed research into the pain and use of analgesics with different types of braces.

If you do experience abnormal levels of pain after having braces fitted, you should contact your orthodontist for further advice

 What’s the difference between braces and retainers?

Once the active phase of your treatment has been completed and your braces have been removed, you will be required to wear a retainer. These come in two different types: removable (similar to a mouthguard) and fixed (where the wire is attached behind your front teeth). Your orthodontist will advise you on how long to use your retainer.

 How will having braces affect my everyday activities?

There are a few activities where braces can have some minor effects:


You can play any sport while wearing braces but are advised to always wear a protective mouthguard.


Some treatments involve appliances that fit into the roof of the mouth and can affect a singing voice. So, if you sing for audiences and your orthodontist recommends an appliance that goes in the roof of your mouth, you should discuss options before proceeding with the treatment.

Playing instruments

Most people have no problem playing instruments while wearing braces, although there may be a brief period of adjustment. Some instruments are easier to play with braces than others. Woodwind instruments, where the lips aren’t pressed very close to the teeth, are usually easy to adjust to. For those who play brass instruments), it can be more difficult to get used to wearing braces. Expect a transition period. The majority of people transition and play well while wearing braces. If you do experience prolonged issues with playing an instrument, then mention this to your orthodontist. He or she might be able to provide an appliance that fits over the braces to help with playing brass instruments. Alternatively, invisible plastic braces might be a more suitable treatment in some cases.

Eating toffee

You will be advised not to eat toffee while wearing braces! This should not really be an everyday activity anyway.

 How often will I need to be seen during orthodontic treatment?

Precise times between appointments will vary from patient to patient. As a generalisation, you will need to see your orthodontist every 6-10 weeks depending on the type of brace and the stage of treatment.

 Can I have all my appointments after school?

Where possible, your orthodontist will schedule your treatment to minimise disruption to school studies. However, most orthodontists see a lot of school-age children and are unable to guarantee that all appointments will be after school.

Will I still need to see my regular dentist?

Yes, you will still need your regular appointments with your dentist. Orthodontists do not usually check for decay or disease in teeth and gums.