Many people seeking oral care often don’t understand how dentistry, orthodontics, and the process of transfer works. There are a few options available, each showing benefits on an individual basis and depending on what you prioritise, will determine the route you choose.
Let’s explore orthodontic referrals, whether they are needed, and which options provide the most amount of benefit to the individual.
What is an Orthodontist and How Are They Different to Dentists?
Both dentists and orthodontists work to improve your oral health but in very different ways. At a glance, a dentist focuses on the wider care of your oral health while orthodontists specialise in straightening your teeth and correcting bite issues.
To become an orthodontist, you must first qualify as a dentist, before completing postgraduate training in orthodontics. This involves 3 years of full-time study and once qualified, can register as specialists with the General Dental Council. Dentists can provide orthodontic treatment, but they don’t possess the expertise of an orthodontist. Due to this, many dentists will refer patients to an orthodontist for specialist treatment, instead of treating them themselves.
Is A Referral Needed to Seek Orthodontic Treatment?
In many cases, a referral is not necessary to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist. General dentists often identify orthodontic issues during routine check-ups and may refer patients to an orthodontist for specialised care. However, it's important to note that you can also directly approach an orthodontist without a referral if you have concerns about your teeth or if you simply wish to explore orthodontic options.
Through the NHS
NHS orthodontic treatment is free for patients under 18 with a clear health need for treatment, but due to high demand, there is a long waiting list. NHS treatment is usually referred through an NHS dentist and is available for grade 4 and 5 cases and these grades are determined using a rating system called the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN) which assesses the eligibility for NHS treatment. Grade 3 cases are usually judged on an individual basis and NHS treatment may also be available if the patient addresses concern about the appearance of their teeth, jaw, or face.
Most adults will be unable to gain orthodontic treatment through the NHS, and so will likely need to seek out private care. This is also the case if you don’t want to wait for your treatment, as NHS waiting lists can be famously long. Private orthodontic treatment does not require a referral and you have free reign over your choice of orthodontists. Private care is widely available, and fees can range from £2,000 to £7,000, depending on the complexity of your case and the type of treatment used. Private treatment often involves a consultation or initial assessment, where a specialist orthodontist will talk you through a treatment plan, cost, and any alternative options available to you.
Benefits of Seeking Orthodontic Treatment Without Referral
As private care can be costly, it may be beneficial for children under 18 to wait for their treatment to become available on the NHS. However, for those severely impacted by their oral health and who do not want to wait, there are many benefits to be gained through opting to go private.
- Timely Intervention - by directly scheduling an appointment with an orthodontist, you can address potential orthodontic issues promptly. Timely intervention can prevent the progression of problems and contribute to more effective and efficient treatment.
- Convenience and Choice - choosing an orthodontist without a referral provides you with the flexibility to select a professional who aligns with your preferences and needs. This includes considerations such as location, office hours, and the specific orthodontic treatment options they offer.
- Access to the Latest Technology - orthodontic practices often invest in state-of-the-art technology to enhance diagnostic accuracy and treatment efficiency. Seeking care without a referral allows you to explore practices that stay at the forefront of technological advancements in the field.
When to Visit an Orthodontist
In most cases, it is usually recommended to wait until all baby teeth have been lost and adult teeth have started to erupt before you book an appointment to see an orthodontist but, in some cases, early intervention is required. If you are concerned about the positioning of your or your child's teeth or jaw, then it is advisable to visit an orthodontist.
It is important to understand why you want to see an orthodontist and what your desired outcome is. Some people want to improve the appearance of their smile, while others want to improve their function and health. Braces can improve the appearance of your teeth by aligning crooked teeth, they can also correct bites and improve the way your upper and lower jaw come together.
Braces can improve the health of your teeth and gums by aligning teeth and making cleaning in between teeth much easier, they also reduce the risk of injury by bringing prominent front teeth in line and reducing the risk of decay and staining in between teeth.
For adults, who may have received treatment in the past but forgot to wear their retainer or who may have missed the opportunity to receive treatment altogether, treatment is extremely common through private orthodontistry.
Referral or Not, Oldham Orthodontics Can Help
We are a specialist orthodontist in Oldham, who treat a wide variety of patients from children under 18 who qualify for NHS orthodontic treatment through to adults requiring invisible or virtually invisible braces. You can book a free consultation with us without the need for a dentist referral, so whatever your needs or budget, contact your specialist orthodontists in Oldham today, so we can help you achieve the beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of.