Q & A for patients

Why see an orthodontist rather than a dentist or other practitioner?

Don't risk seeing someone who is not a specialist and not adequately trained to look after your - or your child’s - teeth and jaws.

There are many supposed “specialists” offering cheap, alternative, or one-size-fits-all solutions. Unfortunately these treatments could be risking your dental health and eventually, your hip pocket.

Alternative treatments currently being offered include those promising to avoid braces in children by doing a range of different things, or offering rapidly accelerated treatment time. In most cases these treatments lack scientific evidence and the results may not last without further treatment.

Talk to a qualified orthodontist for an expert opinion before spending money on alternative treatments. An orthodontist has been specifically trained and is the most qualified person to diagnose, prevent and treat issues to do with the alignment of teeth and jaws and ensure you, or your child, ends up with a smile you love and a bite and jaw that function properly.

What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist?
Orthodontists are dentists who have undertaken additional specialist study full-time at university to become registered specialists in orthodontics.
To become an orthodontist in Australia you must:
Complete an AHPRA registered general dental degree.
Have at least two years clinical experience as a dentist.
Complete an accredited three year full-time university degree in orthodontics.
Be registered as a Specialist in Orthodontics
Some private health funds also rebate the fees for orthodontic treatment at different rates. A specialist orthodontist’s patient receives a more generous rebate.
How do I find an orthodontist and do I need a referral?
You can easily find an orthodontist close to you using our Find an Orthodontist link on this site.
Asking friends and family who have had orthodontic treatment for the details of their preferred orthodontist is another option, however checking that they are a qualified specialist is important.
Once you have found an orthodontist, simply phone and book an appointment. Your dentist may recommend a particular orthodontist, but  you do not need a referral from a dentist to see an orthodontist.
The ASO does not give individual recommendations regarding selecting an orthodontist. Every ASO member is a registered specialist orthodontist and they are all uniquely qualified to treat you and your family members.   

Complete an accredited three year full-time university degree in orthodontics.
My family dentist says they are an orthodontist. Is that true?
It is highly unlikely your family dentist is a specialist orthodontist. If you are unsure, it is best to check the Government website to confirm this.
Many dentists have completed short courses in orthodontics, and have an interest in the area, but generally dentists have varying levels of expertise and ability in orthodontics. This does not mean they can call themselves  or be classed as "specialists" or as "registered orthodontists".
The decision as to whether to have orthodontic treatment with a specialist orthodontist or a non-specialist dentist who may offer orthodontic services is ultimately up to you. The ASO recommends first of all you should obtain an opinion from an orthodontic specialist who is a member of the ASO at  Find an Orthodontist BEFORE commencing ANY treatment.
Dentists are not prohibited from putting on braces, however they have not been trained as part of their dentistry degree to do so. An ASO member orthodontist has three years of additional university training to become a specialist in putting on braces and all other orthodontic appliances, and is specifically trained to plan and fulfill your, or your child's, treatment.
All patients should speak to their private health fund before commencing orthodontic. Some private health funds also rebate the fees for orthodontic treatment at different rates. A specialist orthodontist’s patient receives a more generous rebate.

Moving teeth is not a simple process and we recommend you ensure you use a trained and registered specialist orthodontist to achieve the best smile!

How much will treatment cost?
Costs will vary depending on the treatment type and individual orthodontist. Your health provider may (depending on your cover) reimburse some of your treatment cost.
Please note that orthodontists are free to set their own fees and these will vary between states, large cities etc. There are no prescribed scheduled fees and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) does not allow fee fixing, as it is anticompetitive.
At your initial consultation you should ask your orthodontist how their fees compare to other orthodontists. Feel free to get a few quotes from different orthodontists if you are seeking treatment.
While Medicare does not cover treatment, your private health fund will most likely cover some of the costs. Contact them to get the exact figures as to how much will be covered.

When should I start treatment and how long will it take?
An assessment by a specialist orthodontist for children aged 6-8 years is encouraged to diagnosis and sometimes start interceptive orthodontic treatment for some teeth and bite issues. This may prevent the need for more complicated orthodontic treatment later.
An increasing number of adults are having treatment to get a smile they have always wanted, to fix crooked teeth which may have been bothering them for years, or to fix a bite that is not quite right. In fact, adults are our fastest growing client group.   
Treatment time
This really depends on what you are having done. Braces are usually worn for 12-24 months. Other treatments may take a longer or shorter time depending on the treatment and how fast your teeth move.
Thanks to advances in technology, just about every type of treatment is relatively fast.
These steps will make your treatment as fast as possible:
Follow your orthodontist’s instructions on brushing, flossing, cleaning, and diet.
Keep your scheduled appointments with your orthodontist.
Make sure your orthodontist is a member of the ASO as only they have the training, experience and treatment options to ensure you get your best smile.  
Treatment may take longer than predicted for a number of reasons. Some people just have teeth and jaw bones that move slower than others. There is little that can be done but to be patient and allow the teeth to move.

Be registered as a Specialist in Orthodontics
What options do I have to braces?
There are lots of options! Your options will depend on whether your case is straightforward or not and what results you want to achieve. 
Some options may be braces which are attached behind the teeth, ceramic braces which are less obvious, retainers, or Invisalign which uses thin clear plastic aligners.  
Orthodontists have the specialised knowledge to consider all possibilities based on important variables like your age, possible jaw imbalances, differences in the size of your teeth and more.
Talk with your orthodontist about what treatment options will work best for you.

Can I change orthodontists mid-treatment?
Yes, it is possible, however it should only be done if necessary.
If you move house to a new city or state for example, you may have to change orthodontists purely for practical reasons. Orthodontists are used to transferring details between each other and will ensure your records are sent to your new practitioner.
If you are considering moving orthodontists for other reasons – such as you don’t really get along with your orthodontist – we recommend you talk with your orthodontist and only change if you feel very uncomfortable with continuing.
Orthodontic treatment usually means you meet once every one or two months for a short time. Different practices use different braces systems and they are not always compatible.
Additional fees may be payable with a transfer and there may be the need for further collection of progress records, changing some of the braces over to a different type etc.

Can I still play sport and musical instruments?
Your orthodontist can give you hints and tips to help you continue with your hobbies.
For playing sport it is most likely a mouth guard of some sort will be needed. Talk with your orthodontist about the right protective mouth guard for the sport being played.
Regarding playing musical instruments, it may take a week or two to get used to playing with braces, but most people soon forget they are wearing them when playing! There are some protective devices available to assist with some musical instruments. Please ask your orthodontist for more information.