What is an orthodontist?
An orthodontist is a qualified and registered dentist who has completed extra study to become an expert on the way the teeth and jaws line up. This specialist area of dentistry is called orthodontics.
Orthodontists diagnose, treat and prevent problems with the alignment of the teeth and jaws.
Good dental health and habits in the early years lay the foundations for good dental health throughout life. Caring for your child’s teeth and taking your child to see dental specialists in childhood is part of helping your child grow and develop well.
Why your child might see an orthodontist
Your child might see an orthodontist for treatment to bring their teeth and jaws in line with each other. Also, your child might see an orthodontist to improve their bite or how their teeth look.
It’s important for your child’s teeth and jaw to line up properly. When they don’t, it can cause problems including gum disease, abnormal tooth wear, chewing difficulties and speech problems. People whose teeth and jaws don’t line up can also have trouble getting their teeth clean, which can be a risk for tooth decay.
Orthodontists use a range of treatments, including braces, plates and head gear.
Your dentist can help you decide whether your child needs orthodontic treatment and when it’s best to start. The dentist can also help you find an orthodontist who’s right for your child and give you a referral. But your child doesn’t need a referral to see an orthodontist.
It’s important for your child to keep having regular check-ups with a dentist, even during orthodontic treatment. It’s also very important for your child to maintain good dental hygiene before, during and after orthodontic treatment.
Before going to an orthodontist
Before seeing the orthodontist, it’s a good idea to find out about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: if you’ve been referred to an orthodontist by your dentist, ask your dentist why your child needs to see an orthodontist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the first appointment, or will the dentist make it for you?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the orthodontist? You might have to wait to get an appointment with the orthodontist of your choice.
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, do you need to take your child for X-rays?
- Costs: ask how much appointments and treatment will cost. Check whether you can get money back from private health insurance.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the orthodontist – for example, a clinic or hospital.
You could go through these issues with your dentist. Or you could also ask the orthodontist’s clinic or hospital when you make the appointment for your child.
When you see the orthodontist, here are some questions that can help you understand your child’s treatment:
- How long will treatment take?
- How often will my child have appointments?
- Will treatment be painful?
- What will my child’s treatment involve? For example, will my child need to have teeth pulled out?
- Are there any foods my child can’t eat if they get braces?
- Will braces stop my child from playing sport or musical instruments?