One concern to both providers and consumers of orthodontic treatment is the length of new patient consultation waiting lists. A possible reason for the excessive length of these lists could be unnecessary referral of patients. This research project aimed to identify whether inappropriate referrals for new patient orthodontic consultations were a significant problem. The study was carried out in two FHSA areas in the North of England in two stages. The first part of the study involved an evaluation of GDP referral patterns to orthodontic secondary care providers. In the second part, information on the patients referred by the dentists was collected. We concluded that there was a marked variation in referral rates between the dentists and many patients were referred unnecessarily. Importantly, there was no association between dentists' referral rate and the number of inappropriate referrals made. It appears that referral guidelines for orthodontic treatment are necessary and they should be directed at all general dental practitioners.