Looking for an option to improve your smile? Braces treatment is a common way to correct issues like tooth misalignment, crowding, and crooked teeth. At any given time, about 4 million people in the United States have braces.
Understanding the process of this orthodontic treatment before you or your kids get them can help you prepare. The length of the treatment with dental braces can vary.
Factors That Affect Braces Treatment Duration
Treatment plans for dental braces usually last 1 to 3 years. Correcting your teeth is a slow and gradual process because your teeth are attached to bones. The following factors can determine how long you need to wear braces.
Severity of Orthodontic Issues
Your dentist or orthodontist will set goals for the braces treatment based on how severe your orthodontic issues are. If you just have a few misaligned teeth, you won't likely have to wear braces as long as someone with severely crooked teeth. Fixing bite issues such as a crossbite or an underbite usually takes longer.
Early intervention can shorten the treatment time. Many issues are easier to treat at a younger age when the jaws are still growing and teeth are easier to manipulate. Adults who wear braces might have to undergo longer treatment.
Types of Braces or Orthodontic Appliances
Some types of orthodontics appliances work faster than others. Clear aligners that you can remove from your mouth usually have a shorter treatment time. That's often because they only work for minor orthodontic issues.
Metal braces usually take longer. They use metal brackets that are attached to your teeth with metal wires connecting them.
Timing isn't everything when it comes to choosing the right appliance. Even though aligners might shorten the treatment time, they might work well in all situations. Traditional metal braces might be necessary for severe corrections.
Patient Compliance With the Treatment
A proper treatment plan only works if you follow it. These tips help you stick to your treatment plan and possibly shorten the time you have to wear your braces.
Follow food recommendations: Some foods are off-limits during braces treatment. This includes anything that is sticky, hard, or might get stuck in your braces. Eating those foods can damage your braces and require a fix that could delay your treatment.
Go to all appointments: Regular appointments are important to keep the treatment progressing. Your orthodontist has to tighten the wires regularly to move your teeth with traditional braces. Aligner trays also have to be updated regularly to keep the teeth moving.
Handle routine oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing regularly help keep your teeth in good condition. Having a cavity or other dental issues can prolong your treatment.
Follow directions: Listen to all instructions your orthodontist gives about using your orthodontic appliances. This includes when to replace elastics on traditional braces.
Timeline of Braces Treatment
The following steps give you an idea of the time line for your braces treatment.
Initial Consultation and Treatment Planning
Your treatment starts with a comprehensive initial consultation. This allows your orthodontist to identify the issues that need to be corrected and create a treatment plan.
An incorrect diagnosis or poor treatment plan can require you to wear your braces longer. Things like how your orthodontist treats the issue and how often you have appointments to adjust the braces can impact the time line. Choosing a highly experienced orthodontics professional could get you faster and better results.
This process can vary but often includes these steps:
The orthodontist will perform a complete exam including X-rays and impressions of your teeth.
They'll come up with an ideal treatment plan and possibly some alternative options.
You decide which treatment plan you want to go with.
Some people need to have dental treatments done before getting braces such as tooth extractions or cavity fillings.
Active Treatment Phase
The active treatment phase usually lasts 1 to 3 years. This depends largely on your treatment plan. You might wear braces for a year or less if your corrections are minor. You might wear them closer to 3 years if you have a severe situation.
During this phase, you'll go to the orthodontist about every 10 to 12 weeks. The orthodontist tightens your wires during those appointments. You might need to replace the elastics that help create necessary pressure.
You'll typically need to wear a retainer full time for at least 2 to 3 months followed by wearing it only at night for the rest of your life. Other people might have to wear their retainers full time for longer.
You should follow the recommendations your orthodontist makes to ensure the effects of your braces last. After the braces are gone, your teeth can move back to their old positions. The retainer holds them in place to maintain the results of the braces.
Retainers can be fixed or removable. Fixed retainers are glued to the back side of your teeth and are usually only used on the front teeth. They can be more effective because you can't remove them or forget to wear them. Removable retainers are clear and go on all your teeth. These retainers can make it easier to clean your teeth because you can take them out. It's important to wear them regularly as directed for the best results.
It's difficult to give an exact time line for braces treatment because it depends on your situation. The severity of your orthodontic issue is one of the biggest factors. Your age and the type of braces can also impact the timing. How well you stick to the treatment plan is something that's within your control that can keep the treatment shorter.
If you're considering braces for yourself or your child, we can help. Learn more about our orthodontics services to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get braces on?
You can expect the process to take 1 to 2 hours when you have your braces put on your teeth the first time.
How often do I need to visit the orthodontist during treatment?
You'll usually get your braces tightened once every 10 to 12 weeks during treatment. The timing could be shorter or longer depending on your treatment plan.
Can braces treatment be accelerated?
The time line for your braces treatment is specific to your situation. It usually can't be accelerated if you want to get the best results. You might be able to speed up the process slightly by following the treatment instructions exactly.
How long do I need to wear a retainer after braces?
How long you wear your retainer varies based on the situation. It's common to wear the retainer all the time for 2 or 3 months or longer and then wear it only at night.
What factors can cause treatment to take longer than expected?
Not following your orthodontist's directions is the biggest reason for braces taking longer. This might include not using your appliances correctly, missing appointments, eating harmful foods, and not taking care of your teeth.