Frequently Asked Questions


What is orthodontics?

Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry dealing with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of teeth/jaw mal-alignment. Essentially, that means moving teeth (and sometimes jaws) to fix your bite and improve your smile!

What is an Orthodontist?

An Orthodontist is a Specialist in the field of orthodontics. To be an Orthodontist, you must first be a qualified practicing general dentist, and then undertake a further three years full-time study at university with research and examinations only in orthodontics.  

Why should I choose an Orthodontic Specialist?

Orthodontists have extensive and specialised training that enables them to provide their patients with professional and personalised treatments. NZ Orthodontists are registered with the Dental Council of NZ as a Dental Specialist. They have their own organization (NZ Association of Orthodontists) which arranges ongoing education, courses and conferences. The NZAO have high standards and members are required to undertake extensive on going continuing education.

Do I need a referral from a school dental therapist or a dentist?

No. Referral letters from your dentist are welcome, but not necessary to see Orthodontist John Shennan. Please contact us if you would like to schedule an initial consultation.

At what age should I schedule an appointment?

We see patients of all ages, but 8 - 9 years old is the preferred age for an initial visit to determine if any early, or interceptive, treatment is required. Early treatment may be necessary to allow normal dental development to continue, or may be useful to reduce the complexity of future treatment. If early treatment is not indicated, children may simpy be followed for a few years until the time is right to start their orthodontic treatment (once all baby teeth have been lost in most cases).

How long does brace treatment last for?

The length of treatment depends upon many factors, but in general, comprehensive orthodontic treatment (full upper and lower braces) would be expected to take around 18-24 months. Some people may experience faster rates of tooth movement and straightening.

How much does orthodontic treatment cost?

The cost of treatment can vary according to the type of treatment, the severity of the orthodontic problem, the type of braces chosen and whether there are alternatives to braces. A detailed quotation is given at the consultation visit, and the treatment fee is usually spread out over the duration of the active treatment for your convenience.

What kinds of braces are there?

There are many types of braces available today. The most common being the stainless steel braces, but there are also ceramic braces (tooth-coloured), lingual braces ("hidden" behind the teeth) and Invisalign (clear, customised 'Aligners').  Each have their advantages and disadvantages. John will outline the differences to you during your visit. For more information on types of braces, see our Treatments.

What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a system using a series of custom-made, clear, removable plastic 'aligners' to gradually move teeth. For more information, click here.

What are 'lingual braces'?

At North Shore Orthodontics we offer 3M's Incognito braces which are placed on the inside surfaces of the teeth. They are completely hidden behind your teeth, custom-made for maximum comfort, and utilise advanced digital technology to deliver the most precise and targeted result. For more information click here.

Do braces hurt?

Braces are somewhat uncomfortable in the first 4-5 days, but after that the discomfort passes and people begin to forget they are wearing braces.
After each orthodontic adjustment visit you may also experience one or two days of mild discomfort, which will quickly pass.

Do I need teeth extracted?

In most cases orthodontic treatment does not require any teeth to be removed. However, certain problems are best treated with dental extractions. Orthodontist John Shennan will give you his recommendations and rationale after examining your teeth, bite, smile and face.

What can't I eat with braces?

The 'glue' used to stick orthodontic braces to teeth is designed to be weak enough so that the braces can be removed at the end of the treatment. It is important to avoid hard, crunchy or sticky foods whilst in braces to avoid breakages that may slow down your progress and extend your overall treatment duration.
We recommend you try to stay away from hard things like ice cubes, pork crackling, some hard biscuits or cookies, refrain from chewing on pens, pencils and fingernails and avoid sticky and chewy foods like toffee and similar confectionary.

All other foods need to be portioned into smaller sizes. For example, strip meat from bones and cut them up into small bite sizes, cut fruits into small pieces and cut corn kernels from the cob.

How often do I need my braces adjusted?

Once the braces have been fitted, most adjustment visits are scheduled around 6-8 weeks apart. Regular adjustments are necessary, but are short visits only, usually only 15 minutes long.

Can I still play sports with braces?

Of course. However, we recommend wearing a mouth guard for contact sports. 

Will I talk funny with braces?

Speech may be mildly affected by some orthodontic appliances (e.g. functional or habit-breaking appliances). There may be a slight lisp for a few days, which disappears when the tongue readjusts to the presence of orthodontic appliances. Most people's speech is unaffected by braces.

Something is broken or some wire is poking out from my braces. What should I do?

There's no need to panic. Just contact us to arrange an appointment as soon as possible, so that the problem can be fixed. In the meantime, you may try using some wax to cover any annoying parts of your braces.

How often should I brush my teeth?

At the minimum - twice a day; morning and night. Frequent brushing will ensure a successful treatment with no marking of the teeth, tooth decay, or puffy gums.

Do I still need to see my dentist for check-ups?

Yes. It is recommended that you keep your regular check-up appointments with your dentist for your general dental care.

Do I need retainers after orthodontic treatment?

Yes. Without orthodontic retainers, you teeth will not stay straight for long. Retainers are appliances that ensure your teeth settle into their new position once your braces have been removed and are a vital part of your orthodontic treatment. Retainers usually consist of discrete, clear plastic, removable appliances, along with wire retainers, which are glued invisibly behind the front teeth.

We recommend retainers are worn every night for 2 years, and then 2-3 nights per week as long as possible. This is because the crowding of teeth is part of the normal ageing process – whether or not orthodontic treatment has been undertaken. By wearing retainers long term you will reduce the risk of unwanted tooth movement.