Braces are one option for straightening teeth, but which type of braces might be right for you? And what can you expect? Let’s talk braces.
Orthodontic problems like crooked teeth or a misaligned bite can affect your appearance and your health. Braces aim to straighten teeth and correct jaw alignment, helping your teeth fit together properly and possibly making them easier to clean.
Both teenagers and adults can benefit from braces, and a dentist or a specialist orthodontist may provide the treatment. While a general dentist is a good starting point to understand your overall dental health (or your child’s dental health), some orthodontists offer services without a referral. Find dentists and orthodontists near you.
How do I know if I should get braces?
An orthodontic assessment will help a dentist or orthodontist make a recommendation for you or your child. A dental professional might recommend braces if:
- you have crooked teeth
- your teeth stick out
- your teeth don't fit together properly (overbite, underbite or crossbite)
- there are gaps between your teeth
- your alignment issues are unsuitable or too severe for clear aligners.
Crooked teeth can sometimes make it harder to eat or to brush and floss your teeth, potentially increasing the risk of problems like tooth decay. Teeth that protrude or sit out of alignment with the rest of your teeth might also be at a higher risk of injury or trauma.
Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on your own circumstances and preferences. A dental professional should be able to advise you on the costs and benefits, along with a more detailed price estimate and timeline. Those details can help you make a more informed decision about what’s right for you.
What is the best age to get braces?
Professionals usually recommend orthodontic treatment once all of your permanent teeth have come through. This usually happens around the age of 11–13 years.
There's no upper age limit for braces. While the treatment has a higher chance of success with young teenagers whose teeth and jaws are still developing, plenty of older teens and adults wear braces too. Adults also have the option of wearing clear aligners, which can be a more discrete and flexible option than traditional braces.
How do braces work?
Braces use brackets that are attached to the teeth and supported by wires or bands. These apply gentle force to slowly move the teeth and jaws into position over time.
Orthodontic treatment usually takes around 2 years to complete, but this can be shorter or longer depending on how much your teeth need to move and the type of braces you choose.
Your dentist or orthodontist will take x-rays and moulds of your teeth to plan your orthodontic treatment. Once your braces are fixed in place, they typically won't be removed until the treatment's finished.
You need to have regular appointments so the practitioner can adjust your braces, check your progress and help you with any problems you might have.
When will I see a difference?
Many orthodontic treatments take around 2 years to complete, but you may see movement a lot sooner than 2 years. Some people see small changes in as few as the first weeks or months, although this depends heavily on your teeth and the type of misalignment you’re correcting.
What to expect after getting braces
When you first get braces, it can take time to adjust to how they feel. They can make it harder to eat, speak and brush your teeth, especially at first. You should get used to this over time but speak with your dentist or orthodontist if you’re still having trouble after a few weeks.
It's normal to feel some discomfort when your braces are first attached, but this should go away. If you still feel pain after a 2-3 weeks, or your braces come loose, make an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible.
After your orthodontist removes your braces, you will need to wear a retainer for a while. This helps your teeth stay in their new position — teeth can shift back if left to their own devices!
What are the different types of braces?
Depending on the type of issue you’re trying to correct, your dentist or orthodontist may suggest several types of braces. The most common options are:
Traditional braces use stainless steel brackets supported by wires. These are the strongest type of braces and are usually suitable for more severe orthodontic issues. Modern braces tend to be smaller than metal braces of the past, though.
Also called clear braces or white braces, tooth-coloured ceramic braces can be matched to the colour of your teeth, making them harder to see in your mouth. These braces are suitable for moderate orthodontic issues, but more serious issues may require metal braces.
Also called “hidden” braces, lingual braces use brackets that are attached behind the teeth. These braces can't be seen in the mouth, but some types also use elastic bands that may be visible.
Lingual braces are popular with adults who prefer a discreet treatment, but they can sometimes make it harder to clean your teeth.
Lingual braces may cost more than traditional braces, and they do carry a risk of irritating your tongue or gums. They might also be more difficult to clean than traditional braces since it can be harder to see the brackets.
Some braces treatments apply more force to the teeth to complete orthodontic treatment in as little as 6 months, but these aren't always an option for everyone.
How much do braces cost?
The cost of your braces depends on what type of braces you choose, how much straightening you need, your location and whether you’re getting treatment from a general dentist or a specialist. A dental professional is likely to give you a more specific quote and estimated treatment time if you see them for a consultation.
Some health funds may cover certain types of orthodontic treatment, so contact your health insurer to double-check your plan if you have private health insurance.
Dentists sometimes offer payment plans to help you manage the cost of treatment. Clinics’ DCN listings will let you know if a clinic near you offers payment plans.
Average cost of braces in Australia
In 2018, the mean fee for a full course of orthodontic treatment from a general practitioner was $5,497. Fees for this treatment ranged from $950 to $8,000.1
Be aware that these are just mean fees based on surveyed dentists across all of Australia. To get a more accurate picture of how much your own orthodontic treatment might cost, you’ll need to speak directly with a dentist or orthodontist.
What are the alternatives to traditional braces?
If your teeth don't need too much straightening, you might be a candidate for Invisalign™ or clear aligners. These are removable appliances made from clear plastic that fit over the teeth like a mouthguard. You can take them out when you clean your teeth or eat, and they're less visible on the teeth than most metal braces.
Dental veneers are a cosmetic option that can cover up teeth that are slightly crooked or have minor gaps. Just be aware that veneers may not have the same health benefits as actually straightening the teeth.
Want to know more about straightening teeth?
If you want to know more about orthodontic options for you or your child, find a dental clinic near you to speak with a professional.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
1 Australian Dental Association. Dental Fees Survey Private Practice Members. [Online] 2018 [Accessed May 2019] Available from: www.ada.org.au
The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.