When am I getting my braces off?
Our estimated time that your braces will be on is not just a random number that we quote to every new patient that we see, nor is it a number that is determined by the kind of braces or specific treatment technique we are using. How long you’ll have your braces on is dependent upon the problems that exist in your mouth at the beginning of treatment and the goals that you have for how you want your teeth to look at the end. Your time in braces is also largely determined by how well you take care of your braces.
The number and severity of orthodontic problems that you present with are the primary determinant of your treatment time, and these factors are not under your control.
The easiest – and therefore shortest – orthodontic cases are those in which all of the permanent teeth are erupted, the bite is normal (jaw size not an issue), and the crowding and alignment problems do not require the removal of permanent teeth. Generally speaking, these cases can be completed in about a year by an orthodontic specialist.
If you have more crowding (that requires the use of a palatal expander for example), a posterior (back) crossbite, mild to moderate bite issues, but don’t need to have any permanent teeth removed, your treatment will probably take about 18 months. These are routine cases for a specialist and represent the majority of the patients we see in our office.
When you have moderate to severe crowding, a bite problem that is more than half a tooth off, or any condition that requires the removal of permanent teeth, you should plan on 24 months of treatment. The reason this takes so much longer is that every tooth in your mouth must be shifted to close the extraction spaces or to compensate for the problems with your jaw-size discrepancy. Most orthodontists consider these moderately severe orthodontic problems.
There are additional variables that complicate treatment and can make treatment time longer and more difficult to estimate, however these problems present only in a small percentage of orthodontic patients.
Two major factors that affect the amount of time you’ll wear your braces are very much in your control.
If you choose to go to an orthodontist (a specialist who does orthodontics and nothing else) for your orthodontic treatment, chances are that he or she will propose a treatment plan that provides you with the best bite and smile possible before the braces come off. Although this may seem obvious, there is a popular trend among general dentists to merely line up the front teeth and purposefully not finish the job. Orthodontists receive three additional years of training after dental school which enables them to provide the most efficient and effective orthodontic care. They will get it done right, and in as short a time as is feasible.
Most importantly, you can greatly reduce your time in braces by taking care of your braces and following our instructions carefully. Regular, careful tooth brushing and flossing is critical to keeping your treatment on track. If your oral hygiene is not good, it limits how quickly we can move your teeth and that results in an increased treatment time. Cooperation with wearing orthodontic elastics (“rubber bands”) is also vital to keeping treatment time shorter. Far too many patients lose precious months by either wearing their rubber bands minimally or not at all.
Orthodontic treatment takes time.
Everyone is different, but these estimates give you a general idea of what you can expect going into your treatment. Don’t be fooled by promises of faster treatment by a dentist or orthodontist who uses “special brackets” or markets an “advanced technique.” When these claims have been put to the test in controlled studies, they have been shown to be mostly hype. We all play by the same biological rules and no bracket manufacturer has an inside track with Mother Nature to get the job done any quicker. Even the newest technologies claiming to shorten treatment time (tooth vibrators, bone perforators, pulsating light energy, etc.) have been shown to reduce it by only a very small percentage at huge additional cost.
Having braces isn’t always easy – we know that. We do our best to make the process fun, and in the end you need to remember that before too long you’ll have beautiful new smile and a perfect bite. Keep the end in mind, and try to enjoy the ride!