Frequently asked questions

If you're interested in orthodontics

How much will it cost?

The cost of orthodontic treatment can vary considerably. Factors that influence the cost including the severity of the malocclusion, your priorities, and how much future growth is going to impact your smile and our treatment. 

Christchurch Orthodontic's fees are competitive with other specialists in the Christchurch area. Our fees are also competitive with, and in many cases cheaper than, non-specialists.

Some problems can be treated with a simple plate or fixed braces on just a few teeth. Other problems may require braces to the upper and lower teeth, or perhaps even orthagnathic surgery. Different treatment options involve different costs.

The cost will depend on your smile and what you want to achieve. Therefore, we can't give a specific fee until we've met you in person. Your orthodontist will discuss different options with you and their approximate costs.

The cost of our initial full examination, which includes photographs, x-rays, and treatment analysis, will take approximately 1 hour and cost $180 (all inclusive; payable at the time of the appointment). You will also receive a detailed booklet outlining your concerns and our findings; the treatment options available; the pros and cons of these options; and the various costs.

Once we agree upon a price, there are no hidden costs related to our service. (If you require work by other dentists or specialists this may involve additional cost, although we will try to let you know if this is likely ahead of time.)

What are your finance arrangements?

We offer several payment options to fit your needs, and work with you to make payment as convenient as possible.

Generally, you would pay a deposit when braces are fitted, and the remainder over the course of treatment. If your treatment is expected to take 18 months, for example, you can pay for your treatment over the course of 18 months. 

If you wish to make payment in full at the start of treatment, we will provide you with a discount for doing so.

How long will treatment take?

Treatment time can be anything from several weeks to several years.

Length of treatment depends on a number of factors. It depends on the nature of your bite and how much your bite needs to change in order to get the outcome you want. It depends on how your jaw, gums, and teeth grow over the course of treatment. Everyone is different in terms of how quickly their teeth move as well. 

The most important, factor that is in your control is your level of cooperation. The more effectively you follow our guidance, and the better you practice good oral hygiene (including getting regular dental check-ups) and maintain a proper diet, the faster your treatment will be.

Keeping scheduled appointments is also very important!

Without knowing anything about your bite, it's impossible to give an accurate idea of how long treatment will take. When we meet and speak with you in person we will be able to provide an estimate.

How do you treat?

There's no "one size fits all" method for treating your smile. It depends on the smile you have, and the smile you want.

We have expertise in all major orthodontic methods and will tailor an approach to your bite and what you want to achieve, rather than trying to force a tool that isn't suitable for your bite and your goals.

Depending on the circumstances, we may use fixed braces, Invisalign, Suresmile, functional appliances, orthognathic surgery, or retainers. In many cases we will use several of these methods over the course of your treatment.

What do you treat?

We treat the full range of bites and jaw discrepancies, including minor crowding and relapses from previous orthodontic treatments. 

Examples of bites we work with include:

Crowded teeth

Anterior crossbite

Mild crowding

Spaced teeth

Anterior open bite

Deep overbite

Impacted teeth

Large overjet

What can orthodontics do for me?

Orthodontic treatment has some obvious benefits, including improved appearance and self-esteem.

There are also a number of functional benefits, which can help prevent larger problems from occurring in the future. Orthodontics can:

  • Reduce the likelihood of gum disease and premature loss of teeth, by relieving stress on gums and bones which results when teeth do not meet properly, or by stopping teeth from digging into (and weakening) gums.
  • Eliminate speech problems caused by teeth that are protruding and/or not aligned.
  • Reduce the likelihood of decay in crowded, overlapping teeth (which can become food trap areas).

Who needs treatment?

For some people, the need or desire for orthodontic treatment is obvious. Common concerns include crooked teeth, missing teeth, extra teeth, gaps between teeth, teeth that don't align, and troubles with biting. In many of these cases, orthodontics provides both physical and psychological benefits.

There are also times where orthodontics is necessary for functional reasons. As mentioned above, orthodontics can sometimes eliminate speech problems, reduce the likelihood of decay, and also reduce the likelihood of gum disease and premature loss of teeth.

When is the best time to seek treatment?

There is no universal "best age" to begin orthodontic treatment. It depends on your bite and what you want to achieve.

It also depends on your personal circumstances. For example, it's becoming more common for people to take up orthodontic treatment as adults because as children it wasn't an option within their household. 

Ideally, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that every child see an orthodontist at an early age, preferably before 10 years of age. However, a visit at any age is advisable if a particular problem has been noted by the parent, family dentist or child’s physician.

Orthodontists can improve smiles at any age, but there can be benefits to early diagnosis. Early examination enables the orthodontist to detect and evaluate problems and determine the appropriate time to treat them. After the initial evaluation, the orthodontist may simply recommend periodic checkups while the permanent teeth erupt and the face and jaws continue to grow.

In other cases, treatment may be initiated to prevent more serious problems developing. These measures might involve, for instance, the use of removable appliances. Some of the most common corrective measures in children are guiding or controlling the eruption of teeth and correcting deformities in the jaws as they grow.

Early intervention frequently makes the completion of treatment at a later age easier and less time consuming. In some cases, early treatment achieves results that are attainable once the face and jaws have finished growing.


Am I too old for orthodontic treatment?

You are never too old to begin orthodontic treatment.  Whilst there is often an advantage in beginning treatment early when we can possibly take advantage of growth, there is nothing stopping you from beginning treatment later in life.

Adult orthodontic treatment is one of the largest growing areas of treatment, especially with the recent advancements in clear braces and invisible braces.

We have several parents who have decided to undergo orthodontics after putting their children through treatment.

At a personal level, Dr Chrissy's husband, Sonnie, wore braces for several years in his early 30s. 

What is involved if I want to transfer from another orthodontist?

Sometimes, we accept patients who are in the process of orthodontic treatment and are being treated by another orthodontist. In the vast majority of cases, this is because you have moved to Christchurch and can't easily meet with your previous orthodontist for regular appointments.

If you wish to transfer to Dr Russell or Dr Chrissy, we ask that you provide us with the following information prior to your first appointment:

  • A letter of referral from the previous orthodontist.
  • Copy of accounts or financial contracts from the previous orthodontist.
  • All diagnostic records such as study models, photographs and dental x-rays.

This information will be essential to determining whether it would be suitable for us to continue with your treatment. In most cases we will be able to assist. However, in some cases, because of the unique appliances and/or techniques your existing orthodontist is using, we might suggest that another orthodontist may be suitable. 

What will my first appointment look like?

Your first visit to our practice is an opportunity for us to get to know each other, and for us to chat about what you'd like to achieve. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible – and hopefully even enjoy the experience!

The first appointment will involve a full examination of your teeth and jaw and an analysis of your records. We will take photographs and x-rays. You will meet and chat with Dr Russell or Dr Chrissy, and one of our wonderful treatment coordinators. After this meeting we provide you with a detailed booklet which will outline your concerns and our findings, the treatment options, available, the pros and cons of these options, and more specific detail about the costs and possible timings. If you think it's likely you will proceed, it is probably best to start with a full examination to save you from having to come in more than once.

During these meetings we'll be candid and transparent, and provide you with information about the next steps.

Before your first appointment appointment, we will post or email an information packet.

Before your first visit, we will generally ask that you provide the following information:

  • Completed medical history form (which can be downloaded here)
  • If applicable, a referral letter from your dentist or school dental therapist (this isn't required)
  • Any x-rays or dental records you have which you think may be relevant.

How often will I need to come in?

A misconception that some people have about orthodontics is that we will put braces on, or provide you with a retainer or similar appliance, and that will be that. This is far from the truth.

Orthodontics is not "set and forget". It requires regular monitoring. Different methods and techniques may also be used over the course of your treatment. 

As such, you will need to come in for regular appointments. Generally, these appointments will be every 6 to 10 weeks or so. However, this may change depending on where you are in your treatment.

Most regular appointments are scheduled before 9am and after 3pm. Longer, more complex appointments and emergency appointments tend to be scheduled during the day.

We understand that life gets busy and we all have a number of commitments. If you ever need to reschedule an appointment, we ask that you contact us as soon as possible and work with us to schedule a new appointment.

Does your service include follow-ups?

Yes. Once your braces are removed, we offer a two year follow-up program at no additional cost.

What are some questions I should ask other orthodontic service providers?

We're confident in the service we provide to our patients. We also value transparency. We want our patients to be 100% confident and committed to their treatment with us. 

For this reason, we encourage patients to meet with other orthodontic service providers before deciding to go ahead with us. 

At minimum, we recommend asking the following questions:

  • ARE YOU A REGISTERED, SPECIALIST ORTHODONTIST? Specialist orthodontists start off as dentists (requiring five years of full-time training), but also have three years of full-time training in order to become orthodontists. This means you can be confident of their expertise. Specialist orthodontists also provide orthodontic services all day, every day, and are fully equipped to do so. (Our orthodontists have combined experience of over 40 years in the field.) As well as reinforcing their expertise, it also means that we are more efficient and better able to identify issues and deal with them proactively as treatment progresses.
  • DO YOU HAVE A WIDE RANGE OF TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO YOU? There is no "one size fits all" approach to orthodontic treatment. The "best" approach to treatment will depend on your teeth and jaw, and what you're wanting to achieve. In most cases, a number of different techniques and appliances are necessary to achieve the result you want. Clear aligners, for instance, are great, and appropriate in many cases. But they are only a tool, and need to be used when appropriate, often in conjunction with other tools. 

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

No. Many of our patients come from referrals. But many of our patients contact us directly. No referral is needed.

If and when you decide to go ahead with treatment, we will work with your dentist and/or dental therapist to ensure that you get the best outcomes for your teeth and gums. 

Will I need to have teeth extracted?

Where possible we will try to come up with a treatment plan that does not require tooth extraction.

However, in some cases, we may recommend that you extract some teeth. This will depend on your unique bite, your treatment goals, and the trade-offs you're prepared to make with your treatment. We do not make this recommendation lightly.

Frequently Asked Questions for existing (or past) patients

What do I do if there's an emergency?

True orthodontic emergencies are thankfully very rare, but when they occur we will be available to you. 

As a general rule, most problems aren't urgent unless they are causing pain.

If you are experiencing severe pain and can't take care of yourself, please contact us. If you call us outside of business hours our answering message will provide the contact details of Dr Russell or Dr Chrissy and you can contact them directly.

We will schedule an appropriate appointment as soon as possible to resolve the problem.

Common problems and solutions with braces

Loose Bracket

If the bracket is still attached to the wire, leave it in place - if it is uncomfortable, place wax on it. Please notify us if this occurs.

Loose Wire

Try to place the wire back in position.  If this is not possible please notify us.

Sharp wire

Try to push the wire down with the blunt end of a spoon or a pencil with a rubber end. If this is not possible, place wax on the sharp end and please notify us. If you do not have wax with you, you can try placing sugar-free gum over the sharp area, as an alternative.

Missing module

One missing module is not usually an emergency. The brackets on either side will usually support the missing module until your next visit. Please use your discretion as to whether or not you need to contact us.

My retainer is broken or lost

If you are a patient of ours we can remake a retainer for you. There may be a cost. If you were not a patient of Christchurch Orthodontics we advise you to contact the orthodontic practice that treated you in the first instance. We are reluctant to take on new patients for retainer replacements as we don't know your treatment history, and would need to acquire and assess your orthodontic records before remaking a retainer.

My teeth are changing

The fact you've completed orthodontic treatment doesn't ensure a lifetime of perfectly straight teeth. Whether you've had orthodontics or not, your teeth will change due to maturing and ageing processes. 

One way of retaining your changes is by following our instructions, including, where applicable, wearing retainers at night time.