It’s one of the most common questions orthodontists receive. Understandably, our young patients want to know when they can eat taffy and chew gum again (although we recommend staying away from any sweet treats that can damage restorations and cause tooth decay). Likewise, our adult patients are curious just how long they will need to make time for routine office visits for adjustments and check-ups.
As with most questions of this type, the answer is: It depends. The length of your orthodontic treatment depends on the issues we are trying to correct in your mouth and with your jaw. For some patients, orthodontic treatment takes several months. Other patients require several years of treatment. On average, most people tend to fall somewhere in the middle.
Rest assured, however, we will give you a very accurate idea of how long your treatment will take. Our treatment plans use sophisticated computer software to map your treatment at every stage. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Patients with Minor Crowding
If your teeth need a few tweaks and relatively minor adjustments, you can most likely expect to spend less than a year in braces. These patients don’t require any extractions, and they start out with a normal, functioning bite.
It’s worth noting that a current trend has popped up in some orthodontists’ offices, advertising “six-month braces,” speed braces, or short-term braces. These so-called faster techniques are often marketed to people who need minor adjustments, such as a single overlapping tooth or some mild crowding on the bottom front teeth.
In reality, these techniques simply line up the front teeth, which in many people is the only part of the smile that shows. If you’re only lining up the “public” teeth, of course you will likely experience a much shorter treatment time. However, the problem with this approach is that your bite is just as important as how your teeth look to others. By failing to treat the whole mouth, these “faster” approaches simply set you up for potentially costly, painful problems down the road. Moving teeth is a process that requires breaking down the bone in the jaw and reshaping it. If you force the teeth to move too quickly, you can permanently damage the bone, leading to bone loss later in life.
Patients with Moderate to Severe Crowding
Patients with moderate to severe crowding will spend longer in braces. For example, if you require extractions, a palate expander, or other procedures, your orthodontic treatment plan will be more complex and likely more time-consuming.
Other patients have relatively straight teeth but suffer with a bad bite that causes headaches and other health problems. In these patients, treatment times can last longer, as adjusting the bite is a complicated process that must be done with great care. Overall, patients in this group tend to take anywhere between one to two years to complete their orthodontic treatment plan.
Patients with Severe Crowding, Extractions, and Other Issues
If your treatment plan includes multiple extractions, oral surgery, missing teeth, or major jaw-size discrepancies, you can expect your orthodontic treatment plan to span at least one year and most likely longer.
For these patients, it usually helps to break down treatment into stages or steps. For example, you can consider jaw surgery a step. Once you have accomplished it, you can feel confident about making progress toward the next step. Similarly, if you require extractions, think of it as preparing your mouth for a more exciting stage in your treatment. Before long, you will be wearing brackets and watching your teeth make progress at every appointment. Your treatment plan is a marathon, not a sprint. It might take a bit longer, but the results will be well worth it when you finally cross that finish line.
Talk to Us about Your Smile Goals
Getting a new smile can install confidence, make people more social, and improve self-esteem. Orthodontic treatment can also improve your overall health by correcting bite problems and alleviating jaw pain caused by bruxism, clenching, and other issues. To learn more about how orthodontic care can help you or your child, give us a call today. Our practice serves patients throughout San Diego, as well as communities like Santa Fe, Rancho, Del Mar, and La Jolla.