Orthodontic Information & FAQs

Click on the headers below to view more information about orthodontics and the processes at Dan Smethurst Orthodontist.


What Is Orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a branch of dentistry concerned with the development and management of irregularities and abnormalities of the teeth, jaws and face. The technical term for these problems is “malocclusion” which means “bad bite”.

Why See A Specialist Orthodontist?

Orthodontists undergo a rigorous 3 year Masters degree that involves thorough training in all aspects of orthodontic treatment involving treatment planning, dealing with complex cases that involve multidisciplinary treatment with other specialists, facial deformities and cleft palate management, combined orthodontics and facial surgery, and of course all aspects of orthodontic treatment.
An Orthodontist is registered with The Dental Council of New Zealand as a Dental Specialist. Orthodontists have their own special organisation, The New Zealand Association of Orthodontists (NZAO) who arranges courses and conferences. They have very high standards in accreditation of members, and requirements for ongoing education.

Do I Need A Referral To See An Orthodontist?

No! Although School Dental Therapists and Dentists will refer cases to us, you can ring to ask questions or make an appointment without a referral.

Why Are My Teeth Crooked (malocclusion)?

Most malocclusions are inherited but some are acquired. Inherited problems include crowding of teeth, too much space between teeth, extra or missing teeth and a wide variety of other irregularities of the jaws, teeth and face. Crooked teeth can also be caused by trauma through an accident, thumb, finger or dummy sucking, dental disease or early loss of baby or permanent teeth. Inherited and acquired malocclusions can affect both the alignment of teeth and sometimes even facial development and appearance.

Do I Need Orthodontic Treatment?

Most people do not need Orthodontic Treatment. There are a few cases where the way a persons teeth bite together can do damage. Crooked and crowded teeth can be hard to clean and look after. However, in most cases, the main benefit of orthodontic treatment is aesthetic.

Is It Better To Start Treatment Early?

In some cases early treatment can be better. More often than not, no treatment is carried out until all adult teeth are through (age 10-14 years). Children who are not ready for braces will benefit from an early evaluation by having their growth and development monitored by an Orthodontic Specialist. Adult treatment is becoming more common and more adults are seeking treatment. As long as the supporting gums are healthy the teeth can be moved with little risk of damage at any age.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

Prominent teeth can lead to teasing at school and the teeth are more likely to be damaged during sport and play. We can use an appliance at this young age to retract protrusive teeth.By using a simple brace known as a Lingual Arch as a first phase of treatment it can prevent lower crowding.
It sounds strange but some of the baby teeth are actually bigger than the adult teeth coming through. The Lingual Arch is used to hold the space left by the baby teeth until the smaller adult teeth arrive. By doing this it can create space for the front teeth if they are crowded.

Do You Always Extract Teeth For Orthodontic Treatment?

Definitely not!

We treat a lot of our complex cases without taking teeth out. A decision about the type of treatment given is made in consultation with the patient after a rigorous examination of records and cost/ risk/ benefit analysis. Sometimes teeth need to be extracted for excessive protrusion, so the teeth can be brought back in the face, or for excessive crowding, where there is not enough room for the teeth to fit in. People who have teeth removed end up with the same biting surface as someone who didn’t. An advantage of having teeth out is it often creates room for the wisdom teeth to erupt later in life, saving costly and sometimes painful extractions.

Some alternative practitioners claim that all treatment can be performed without the extraction of teeth or make excessive claims about the ability to “grow jaws”, or make unsupported claims about extractions “caving in” faces. In misdiagnosed cases, these often end up with unsightly or unstable results (We don’t like having to fix these cases up at a later date).

Will Extractions Change The Shape Of My Face?

Media reports in the past have claimed that extractions can cause damage to the appearance of faces. However, this is unsupported by years of research. In cases where patients have protrusive teeth and teeth have been removed, the patients are seen as being far more attractive at the end of treatment. Dan always takes your profile into consideration when planning treatment. Inappropriate extractions may cause problems, but as Specialists we are trained to evaluate and treat cases to gain the best possible result.

If Teeth Do Need To Be Extracted Who Removes Them?

If teeth need to be extracted, your family dentist will do this. By becoming a Specialist in Orthodontics it means that the main focus shifts from everyday dentistry to just orthodontics.

Are There Different Types Of Braces?

There are several types of braces to choose from. We have traditional metal braces and clear braces.

How Long Will I Need Braces For?

The average time for braces ranges from about 18 – 24 months.

When I Have Braces On How Often Do You Need To See Me?

On average we see most people every 6-8 weeks. However, braces can remain active for up to 10 weeks at a time.

Do Braces Hurt?

When braces are first placed they are not sore. When you go home however they start to ache. Teeth will be sore from 2 – 5 days and anywhere up to 2 – 3 weeks. Usual pain relief will help.

Do I Have To Keep My Teeth Clean?

Yes, definitely.

We make sure that oral hygiene is up to the high level required before treatment can start. After all, we don’t want to take the braces off and have you left with “ugly white marks”. We supply you with a kit which has toothbrushes, interdental brushes, dental floss and wax. While the braces are on we continue to monitor oral hygiene at each check up appointment. Some patients are advised to visit a hygienist if their oral hygiene is not up to the required standard. In a handful of cases we have removed a patients braces early because leaving them on would cause tooth damage.

If you don’t brush your teeth regularly the following may occur:

Discolouration and staining of the enamel surface known as “ugly white marks”.Dental decay causing cavities to form in the teeth.Inflammation of the gums causing pain, swelling and bleeding and gum disease which can then result in tooth loss.Bad breath.
These same problems occur without orthodontic treatment, but the risk is even greater when orthodontic appliances are worn because plaque and food can build up easily around the braces.

Straight teeth with Ugly White Marks!

Lovely Straight White Teeth!

How Do I Get Rid Of Ugly White Marks?

Ugly white marks occur when toothbrushing has not been sufficient throughout brace treatment. Unfortunately the white marks are with you for the rest of your life, hence the reason we stress the need for lots of toothbrushing while the braces are on.

Although these marks cannot be removed, they can be lightened and they can be reduced in size.

There is a product available called Tooth Mousse. It replaces the calcium that has been lost from the tooth surface. The mousse is available from your chemist, dentist or we do have it for sale here.

Can I Still Play Rugby, Soccer And Other Sports If I Have Braces?

Yes you sure can!

You can play rugby, softball, karate, soccer. You can still go bowling. You can still do everything you did without the braces. Just wear a mouthguard for your sports and try to not to get hit in the mouth. You can purchase mouthguards from sports retailers, supermarkets or us. We either have ready made ones or are able to have ones specially made for the individual.
Avoid sports as much as possible where you will get hit in the face (fighting, boxing, contact karate, snowball fights).

What Happens If I Move Away?

Orthodontic treatment is not suited for those who are planning on travelling.
If you do re-locate while you are wearing braces, The New Zealand Association of Orthodontists has a transfer protocol which we follow. There is a set formula for fees so if you transfer to another member the fee charged at the time of transfer is set as a percentage of the treatment completed.

If you are moving overseas, we do our best to select an Orthodontist for you to transfer to that uses similar appliances to us. We make sure the records we have taken are provided for them. Fees overseas vary quite a lot from those in New Zealand. It is up to you to negotiate with the new Orthodontist the remaining amount to be paid.

What Are Functional Appliances?

Functional appliances are specially designed removable “plates” that use forces that come from muscles and soft tissues of the face to move teeth. This is different to “braces” which are bonded to the teeth and use forces from wires or elastics to slide teeth along wires that run through slots in the braces. We use functional appliances to treat certain types of bites in the appropriate situation. However, they are not suitable to correct all problems. We use functional appliances as a first phase of treatment prior to using braces.

Why Doesn’t My Dentist Do Orthodontic Treatment?

Some dentists choose to do minor orthodontic treatment or treat simple cases.
There are some dentists who perform alternative orthodontic treatment (sometimes called functional orthodontics). Treatment goals can sometimes be unrealistic and are often not supported by the current research in orthodontics.