For teens with misaligned teeth, the option to get free braces on the NHS is worth investigating. Straight teeth not only help to boost confidence, but they are also easier to care for.
With limited spaces for NHS orthodontics every year, there is a strict criteria that your teen will need to meet in order to be eligible. And long waiting lists means that many teens age-out of the eligibility criteria every year.
When this happens, the only option is to choose private orthodontics. Some parents are skipping the waiting lists entirely and choosing private orthodontics from the start, meaning their child can get started with their treatment straight away instead of waiting for a spot to become available with a local orthodontist.
If you’re curious about NHS orthodontics for your teen and want to understand more about how this works, read on.
Who qualifies for NHS braces?
Not everyone is eligible for braces on the NHS. To make sure that these limited resources are given to those who need it the most, there are strict criteria your child will need to meet in order to qualify for a referral.
Your usual dentist can refer to you an orthodontist for treatment if you meet the following criteria:
Must be under the age of 18 at the start of treatment.
Must have a health need for treatment, assessed by the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need.
Patients must be a grade 4 or 5 on the IOTN, and grade 3 cases may be judged on an individual basis.
How can parents secure a referral?
Your dentist will monitor your child’s teeth and determine if orthodontic treatment is required. This typically starts at around 12 years old, so attending regular checkups is essential.
If you suspect your child might benefit from orthodontics, you can ask your dentist for an assessment. They will decide if your child should be added to the NHS waiting list.
Your dentist will use the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need to assess your child’s smile:
Grade 1 is near perfection
Grade 2 is minor imperfections, such as slightly irregular teeth, or slightly protruding teeth.
Grade 3 is for greater imperfections which would not normally require treatment for health reasons.
Grade 4 is for more severe imperfections, which need to be addressed for health reasons, including issues with the bite that impact functionality.
Grade 5 is for the most severe dental problems, including issues with crowding
Teens with grade 4 and 5 issues will be referred to an orthodontist while those with grade 3 issues will be assessed by your dentist.
The second part of the assessment is the Aesthetic Component. This allows your dentist to take into consideration the aesthetic benefits of orthodontics. This scale uses 10 colour photographs which show different levels of dental attractiveness.
Your orthodontist will match the patient to the photographs to determine where they land on the scale. If they achieve a rating of 6 or more, and have grade 3 imperfections, they will be eligible for free treatment.
If your child has grade 3 imperfections and is deemed to be unsuitable for NHS orthodontics, it’s not uncommon for parents to seek private treatment in this case.
Grade 3 doesn’t mean that your child wouldn’t benefit from braces, it simply means that there isn’t a compelling health case to warrant a referral.
What is the current waiting time for braces?
The current waiting time for NHS braces is around two years. This means if your child is added to the waiting list when they are 16 or over, they run the risk of ageing out of eligibility.
Waiting times can vary between areas, as some areas will have more NHS orthodontists offering treatment than in other areas.
Why are waiting lists so long?
NHS waiting times for orthodontics treatment have always been quite long, but the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation much worse. Many appointments were postponed and pushed back, which created a backlog of cases for orthodontists.
When treatment could resume, enhanced cleaning protocols meant that dentists could no longer see as many patients in a single day, which made it difficult to catch up with the treatments.
And finally, the number of dentists offering NHS treatment is also falling, which means there are more people chasing a smaller number of available spots.
All of this has combined to create long waiting lists that are causing a headache for parents and their teens. The issue many teens are facing is that they might not be considered clinically eligible until they are 16 or 17, at which point they are close to being too old to qualify for free NHS treatment.
What happens if my child misses the cut off?
It’s not uncommon for teens to turn 18 while still on the waiting list for NHS orthodontics. Unfortunately, when this happens, the only choice is to opt for private orthodontics.
Since the waiting times are so long, your child’s teeth could have shifted further out of alignment while waiting for treatment. To prevent this, some parents turn to private orthodontics straight away so they can get started quickly and enjoy shorter treatment times.
At Bhandal Dental Practice, we offer private orthodontics starting at just £2,499. At rival practices, you could expect to pay in excess of £5,000 for teen orthodontics, and even more if you choose a treatment plan like Invisalign.
The benefits of private orthodontics
We recognise that your child’s oral health is your biggest priority. If you are concerned about your child missing the cut off for orthodontics, or you’d like to get started with treatment right away, there are a number of benefits you should consider with private orthodontics:
Treatment can start on your schedule, so you aren’t waiting for a referral and then waiting to get to the top of the list.
You’ll have a wider choice of treatment options, including fixed and removable aligners.
With private orthodontics, you don’t need a referral. If your child would benefit from braces for either health or aesthetic reasons, they can start treatment. There is no requirement to meet certain criteria before moving forward.
Bhandal Dental Practice offers private orthodontics for a highly competitive price. We also offer interest-free credit payment plans that enable you to spread the cost of treatment. Treatment starts at just £2,499 for teen orthodontics.
It’s safer and more effective than alternatives such as mail-order aligners, which are not recommended by orthodontists as they do not have an adequate level of supervision.
If your teen is currently on the NHS waiting list for orthodontics and you’d like to get started with treatment straight away, get in touch with our team today to book a consultation.