General FAQs

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Your orthodontist will be happy to answer any questions you may have. We allow plenty of time for discussion.

Some common questions are answered below, click on the question to find the answer:

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What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialist branch of dentistry concerned with the diagnosis and management of irregularities of the teeth, jaws and face. Braces are used to apply gentle pressure to move teeth into the most desirable positions.

In a growing patient, braces can also be used to modify growth of the jaws, helping to correct in-balances in the jaw size and improve a patient’s appearance.

What are the benefits of Orthodontics?

Orthodontics improves your personal appearance and many patients report that their self esteem and confidence are also improved as a result. In addition, the function of the bite may be better and straight teeth are easier to clean, which can help keep them healthy.

Do I need braces?

Usually it will be fairly obvious if you require braces to straighten your teeth as the teeth will appear overcrowded or the bite may not feel right. Braces can also correct prominent or ‘gappy’ teeth, or teeth that grow in the wrong place. In addition, your dentist is trained to look for orthodontic problems that may not be so obvious and, depending on the findings at your check-up, may refer you to us as appropriate.

Does my dentist have to refer me?

For children, your dentist will refer you when the teeth are sufficiently established. The timing of this varies, but is usually over the age of 10 years. Your dentist is trained to recognise when it is the right time to refer.

For adult patients you do not need to be referred by a dentist, simply contact us and we will arrange an initial assessment appointment for you. However, we strongly advise you are registered with a general dentist. The orthodontist will keep you and your dentist fully informed about your treatment.

Can’t my dentist do the work?

As well as holding the dental qualification, an orthodontic specialist has received at least a further 3 years comprehensive training in orthodontics alone. As such, the orthodontist is best placed to advise on and treat a whole range of problems. A general dentist will refer work which is beyond his/her ability and training.

Do I still need to visit my dentist during treatment?

Your orthodontist will not carry out routine dental care. It is important to keep your mouth healthy during treatment by seeing your dentist regularly.

Older lady smiling

What age should I have braces?

The usual age is once the adult teeth have come through, most often above the age of 10. However we do treat younger patients if there is a need and a clear benefit.

Am I too old for braces?

No. Increasingly adults are seeking treatment. Improvements in materials and techniques, such as invisible braces have made adult orthodontics more and more popular. Also, because orthodontics is relatively non-invasive, it avoids the extensive drilling of tooth tissue as found with ‘extreme makeover’ dentistry. Unlike veneers and crowns that are more immediate, so long as retainers are worn as advised, there should be no need for re-treatment in the future.

What sort of braces are there?

At Sunlight Orthodontics we have a range of the most modern techniques available for you to choose, including fixed braces, removable braces, invisible braces and lingual (behind the teeth) braces. Please refer to our treatments section.

Can I choose what sort of braces I have?

The orthodontist will advise the type of brace best suited to you. If you have a preference please discuss this at your initial visit, as we always try to tailor treatment to suit you. Invisible braces are only available on a private basis.

Can I have colours on my brace?

Standard fixed braces use small elastics to hold the wire in. These can be plain or coloured and can be changed during treatment.

Can I have less noticeable braces?

Tooth coloured braces can be used to make the brace less noticeable. We also use Invisalign and braces on the back of the teeth (lingual). See our treatments section. These are available on a private basis.

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I have been refused treatment on the NHS. Can I still have braces?

If your teeth are not severe enough for NHS treatment you can be treated privately if your orthodontist feels you will get some benefit.

I don’t want braces, do I have to have them?

In general, it is up to you to decide. However, the orthodontist will advise you about any risks that may occur if you don’t have a brace.

How long does treatment take?

This depends on your particular problem. Most treatments take between 6 and 20 months. You will be given a guide to treatment time at your initial visit.

How often will I need to see the orthodontist?

Once your treatment starts, you will usually visit us every 6-8 weeks.

Can I still play contact sports?

Yes. If you have a removable brace, functional appliance or removable retainers then you must remove these whilst playing any contact sports such as hockey & rugby etc. You also should remove them for swimming.

If you have a fixed brace then we advise you also wear a mouth guard over the top of the appliance to protect your brace and teeth. These can be purchased from us at the practice.

I sing or play a wind instrument, how will this affect me?

With some practice you will be able to carry on as before. Please talk to your orthodontist and your music teacher about this.

Young lady thinking

Are there any risks of treatment?

The main risk is damage to the teeth and surrounding gums. This can be decalcification (damage to the enamel causing permanent marks) or gingivitis (swollen, bleeding gums) or caries (tooth decay). These are generally caused by not looking after your braces properly i.e. not cleaning well enough and eating/drinking things we recommend you should avoid. Tooth roots also get slightly shorter during treatment, but usually it is almost undetectable. If any of these problems occur then your orthodontist would inform you and help you to overcome these problems. If these problems continue then we would advise you to stop the orthodontic treatment to save the health of your teeth.

What is a retainer?

Retainers are used after your teeth are straight to hold them in the new position. Without retainers your teeth would move again. They are usually removable clear covers, worn at night.

How long do I need to wear retainers for?

For as long as you want your teeth to remain straight as your teeth will move a little all through your life. Although the amount you need to wear them will reduce with time, keep wearing the retainers if you want to be sure of keeping straight teeth.

Will I need to have any teeth out?

Sometimes in order to straighten teeth you may need to have some teeth removed to make enough space. However, this is always avoided whenever possible. The majority of adults are treated without the need for extractions. If extractions are needed, then usually your own dentist will do this.

Will my braces hurt?

Having your braces fitted does not hurt. However when the braces start to move your teeth, your teeth can be uncomfortable and tender to bite on for up to 4-5 days. This can be overcome by any painkiller that you would usually take to get rid of a headache. E.g Paracetomol, Ibuprofen.

Does it hurt having my braces adjusted?

Having your brace adjusted does not usually hurt. Afterwards, your braces will feel tighter and this can make your teeth ache for a couple of days, but this is not usually as uncomfortable as when after you first had them fitted. Again, any pain is normally relieved by painkillers.

Braces storage case

What happens if I break or lose my brace?

This is not an "emergency" in the true sense of the word. However, if you break or lose your brace we do advise that you contact the clinic as soon as possible so we can arrange a convenient time to correct it. Please don’t wait until your next routine appointment. If the brace is not attached to your teeth then it is not working. Broken brackets will feel loose and move along the wire on the brace. A charge will apply for removable braces that are lost or broken beyond repair. If you break your brace then your treatment could take longer to complete, and although we understand that accidents occasionally happen, continual breakages may mean we have to stop treatment.

What should I do if the brace feels sharp?

The brace can often feel sharp after first fitting, until the mouth adapts to it. To overcome this, we will give you some soft wax to place over any sharp bits. Dry the area first, then roll up the wax in to a ball and place it on the sharp bit. If you run out of wax, you can get some more from the practice, or use the wax coating from Edam cheese or a Baby-Bel instead. If this does not resolve the problem, contact the practice and we can fix it for you. In an emergency, for example if you are abroad, a pair of nail cutters can snip a loose piece of the thinner wires we use.

What foods and drinks do I have to avoid while wearing braces?

It is really important that you avoid hard, chewy sticky foods like sweets/caramel & chewing gum as these can break your brace.

Fizzy drinks & natural fruit juices should also be avoided because the acid in these drinks help to break down the enamel and attack the tooth surface around your brace causing bright white marks on your teeth which are permanent.

Hard foods such as apples, raw carrots/veg, French bread, pizza crust etc should be cut up and chewed with your back teeth instead of biting straight into them.

We also ask you to not bite your nails or chew pen tops etc, which could break your brace. For some brace friendly recipes see our Resources.

How do I clean my brace?

Each type of brace requires really good cleaning. Braces can trap plaque & food which, if not removed, can cause your teeth & gums damage. You will be shown how to clean your braces once they are fitted. We also provide a pack which has everything you need to look after your teeth and braces. This can be purchased at the practice. For further information see our Brace Care FAQs.


Will I need to wear headgear?

Headgear is a technique involving the wearing of a special head-cap and/or neck-strap at night to help move the teeth. We seldom if ever use headgear at the practice. Although only occasionally necessary, using newer techniques such as special mini "tacks" temporarily placed painlessly in the gum, we can almost always avoid the need for headgear.

How much does private orthodontic treatment cost?

The cost depends on the problem being corrected and the type of brace you choose. Please refer to our fee guide for further information.

What are the benefits of private treatment?

There is no age limit to having an attractive smile, adults can be treated as well as children and a wider choice of treatments are available including braces that are virtually invisible. All problems can be treated, including those not covered by the NHS and there are no waiting lists. In addition, we have affordable payment plans to spread the cost of your treatment; with 0% credit available, no deposit required and the option to spread your payments over as much as 5 years* (Subject to status, terms and conditions apply).

Invisalign, DW Lingual Systems GmbH, Incognito, British Orthodontic Society, British Lingual Orthodontic Society, General Dental Council, BDA Good Practice Member Invisalign, DW Lingual Systems GmbH, Incognito, British Orthodontic Society, British Lingual Orthodontic Society, General Dental Council, BDA Good Practice Member
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