Questions and Answers

How long will treatment take? How long will it last? Will I have to get braces? Find answers to the most commonly asked questions here.

What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is the specialist area of dentistry concerned with improving the appearance, function and stability of teeth and jaws. An orthodontist is a dentist who has gone on to complete an additional 2-3 years of specialist university study in orthodontics.

Your specialist orthodontist can: 

  • Align teeth to ensure correct function 
  • Contribute to a beautiful smile 
  • Improve dental hygiene 

What causes orthodontic problems?

The technical term for a bad bite is malocclusion. Most orthodontic problems – like crowding, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth – are inherited. A wide variety of irregularities result in the need or simply the desire for orthodontic treatment. 

Acquired malocclusions can be caused by accidents, thumb or finger sucking, dental disease or premature loss of baby or permanent teeth.

Whether inherited or acquired, many problems can affect facial development and appearance as well as functional alignment of the teeth.

Why is orthodontic treatment important?

Crooked and crowded teeth are hard to clean. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, abnormal wear of the tooth surface, inefficient chewing action and excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth.

Most untreated orthodontic issues worsen over time. Treatment by a specialist to correct the original problem is often less costly than the additional dental care required to treat serious problems that can develop in later years.

In addition, well aligned teeth and a properly functioning bite are key ingredients to an attractive smile. Orthodontic treatment can bring the teeth, jaw and mouth into proportion with the face, increasing self esteem and confidence.

How long does treatment take?

Orthodontics, like all good things, takes time. Treatment is also as unique as you are. Treatment time is generally dependent on the growth of the mouth and face, the severity of the problem, and the patient’s commitment to treatment. Treatment typically ranges from 3 – 24 months depending on patient age, extent of the problem, and treatment requirements.

Is orthodontic treatment only for children?

Both children and adults can benefit from orthodontic treatment. The introduction of clear braces and behind-the-teeth braces makes correcting malocclusions a realistic option for everyone.

What's the optimum age to start treatment?

The best time to seek an orthodontic opinion is as soon as you notice an irregularity in your or your child’s bite. While it may seem that orthodontics is a teenage issue, only a specialist orthodontist can advise if early treatment is best, or if you should wait until all the adult teeth are in.

Orthodontic treatment during teenage years is common as the rapid growth of the mouth, teeth and jaw during this phase is utilised in treatment.

How much will treatment cost?

The cost of treatment for orthodontics is dependent on many variables, but there are usually solutions for every issue and for every budget. Contact your local member of the NZAO for a full assessment and to discuss payment terms and treatment options. 

Most of our members are happy to extend the payment for treatment over the length of the treatment, breaking it down into manageable chunks. Some also offer discounts for siblings or for early payment. Your local orthodontist will be able to discuss the best pan for your needs. 

Like any professional organisation, fees may vary between members and in different areas.

Is financial assistance available?

Because orthodontics is considered by health authorities to be a largely cosmetic procedure there is very little government assistance available. Child, Youth and Family (CYFs) or your local District Health Board has full information on application and entitlements. Please note, however, that any subsidy paid by Government is generally required to be paid back. 

The NZAO has recently introduced the Wish for a Smile Trust for children with severe malocclusion and no option for subsidised treatment. Full details on which members of the NZAO are taking part in the Trust, eligibility criteria and application details are available on the Wish for a Smile website.

Can my dentist provide orthodontic treatment?

Most dentists can provide cosmetic dentistry or minor orthodontic treatment. Much dental cosmetic work involves building up teeth using crowns or caps, rather than straightening the teeth themselves. 

All members of the NZAO have trained for five years in dentistry before going on to a further 2-3 years specialist university education in Orthodontics. Specialist orthodontists have the skills and knowledge to correctly assess and straighten teeth and bites for proper form and function.

Most dentists will refer you to a specialist orthodontist for a complete assessment. However, you do not need a referral to see an orthodontist. You are welcome to make an appointment with your local orthodontist for an initial assessment.

What is orthotropics?

The NZAO does not endorse orthotropics.

Orthodontics as practiced by all NZAO members has been studied, tested and proven to work for over a century. Your specialist orthodontist can provide you with the best treatment which will lead to the best outcome for you and your child. 

We strongly encourage you to contact your local member of the NZAO to discuss the full range of treatment options available.

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For full details of the Scope of Orthodontic Practice for Graduate Dentists that has now been finalised between the Aus/NZ schools see here

For full details of the DCNZ Scope of Practice for Orthodontic Auxiliaries see here

For full details of the DCNZ Scope of Practice for Dental Hygienists see here


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