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Orthodontics is the practice of improving harmony in the mouth by correcting growth errors in the teeth and jaws.

Orthodontics is usually performed on children, starting around age 12 or just above. This is because the prime time for fixing problems is when all the adult teeth have started to come through, but the mouth is still growing. However, this does not mean that adults cannot access orthodontic treatment to improve the aesthetic and health of their own smiles.

In the UK, orthodontics is provided to children under the age of 18 on the NHS if required, although waiting lists can be long. Over the age of 18, treatment may be available on the NHS in certain severe cases, otherwise it would have to be privately funded.

The IOTN rating system that determines whether adult patients qualify for orthodontic treatment on the NHS in introduced in the PDF attachment to this post.

Jonathan Alexander-Abt is an orthodontist currently working at an NHS practice in London.

Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment

There are multiple benefits to orthodontic treatment, which range from aesthetic to reducing health risks. Having straight teeth improves the features of the face and helps reduce the likelihood of damage being caused to teeth that may be protruding or out of place.

Better aligned teeth can masticate food better, which can result in improved digestion. Straight teeth are also easier to clean, which results in general improvements in oral health. Orthodontics can also be used in some cases to help treat conditions such as a cleft lip and palate.

The embedded short video explains more about cleft lip and palate.

Children and Adults

The orthodontic treatment process does not vary much between children and adults. The main difference in the UK is that adult treatment is not usually covered on the NHS. However, as the treatment is done privately, adult patients often have more options available to them, such as different types of braces. Adults may also have different expectations for the outcome of their treatment, which can be discussed with their orthodontist before commencing.

There are many different types of brace and orthodontic appliance that can be used to help correct issues with the teeth. The embedded infographic lists some of the most commonly used orthodontics appliances in the UK.