While we know that the hippocratic oath binds doctors to save lives even if they get no compensation, this oath does not spread to all aspects of medicine. Dental woes rarely produces cases in which treatment is life saving, and orthodontics never does. This is why it should be of no surprise that even if you are in need of orthodontry but cannot afford it, you will have a very hard time finding braces for yourself or your family, as most charities and free clinics will not carry orthodontics at all.
Not Without Help
Several orthodontists have seen this problem, and many of them have opted for a humanist solution - they’ve set up agencies where families in need of orthodontic treatment can get free or very low cost orthodontry. All of these agencies work either in America or are operated by American dentists in a developing country, so it seems that patients in Britain have no choice but to either pay the fee or go to the NHS.
The British Situation
Since neither the Donated Orthodontic Services, which works on braces that have been modeled by orthodontists then donated for free to the charity, nor Smiles Changing Lives - both charities run by the AAO (American Association Of Orthodontists) - have a British branch, the choices are very narrow. Unlike America, though, Britain has universal health care, in the form of the NHS. The problem is, the NHS only provides free orthodontry to patients who are living in poverty, have a “clear clinical need for treatment”*, and are under 18. If you are over 18 and your teeth are shattering because they are overcrowded, tough luck. While from time to time charities will make brief visits to impoverished areas of the UK to offer free braces, there are no long standing orthodontic charity programs in the UK at all.
Let’s face it, there is no easy way out of this situation. The NHS is incredibly overburdened, and providing free orthodontics in the same way that free appendectomies are provided is simply unfeasible both monetarily (unless we see an astronomical increase in taxes), and labor wise, as the facilities are already packed and NHS dentists are some of the most overworked doctors on the planet. The solution has to come from an outreach from private orthodontists who are willing to take on this need and provide free orthodontic treatments from time to time. Perhaps the government can help with deducting taxes and making exemptions for these dentists. However they manage, the solution must come from private individuals who are willing to make a change just for the sake of making a change.