“How long do braces take?” is the most common question we’re asked by patients. People want to know how long they’ll have to make room in their life for their braces – it’s understandable. Braces are hard to brush and floss around, they come with food restrictions, and they can be a source of embarrassment for teens at school or professionals in the workplace.
Even our patients who are most excited to begin treatment inevitably cannot wait for it to end. We give each patient and their family an estimated treatment plan and timetable when they receive an evaluation. Of course, they always hope that we can somehow speed up time and make their smiles perfect as quickly as possible.
How Do Braces Work?
When answering the “how long” question, it’s important to understand how exactly braces work. If you understand the physiology of tooth movement a bit better, it’s easier to understand why treatment might take as long as it does. It makes sense that a patient may assume they are ahead of schedule when their teeth look straight in a mirror. Orthodontics isn’t just about straight teeth, the goal of orthodontic treatment is a beautiful smile and a healthy bite that lasts a lifetime.
Braces move teeth slowly but surely. The ideal amount of tooth movement in a month is actually one millimeter! This is the fastest movement that is healthy for the tooth and your bone cells. It allows them to effectively create new bones to support the tooth’s movement. Because new bone must be created and then mature and solidify to complete orthodontic treatment, what patients see in the mirror isn’t all that is happening in their mouths. Though most patients will see major changes in their appearance in the first six months of treatment. After that, the changes aren’t as noticeable since they are more bite-related and happen “behind the scenes” and involve more movement and solidification of the underlying oral bone structure among other things.
As we said, a chief goal of orthodontics is a long lasting and healthy bite. An orthodontist specializes not only in the movement of teeth, but the proper relationship between the upper and lower jaws and how it relates to facial aesthetics. Even though your teeth look straight to you, your upper and lower jaws must fit together correctly to prevent premature wear and tear of your bite over time.
Your Orthodontist Knows Best
Orthodontists are trained experts in dental issues, diseases, and tooth movement. After becoming a dentist, an orthodontist continues with at least two or three academic years of advanced specialty education in an ADA-accredited orthodontic program. There’s a reason you go and see an orthodontic expert to perfect your smile.
For those wondering if there’s something they can do to make their treatment go faster, the only real answer we can give you is to follow the directions from your orthodontist. Wear your appliances for the recommended number of hours per day and keep all your appointments on schedule. Patient cooperation is a very important factor for a successful outcome, especially if you as the patient are responsible for switching, tightening, or wearing elastics. As always, patients with good oral hygiene habits and who follow all instructions will often complete treatment ahead of schedule.
If you have questions about your treatment, feel free to ask what still needs to be completed. Our goal is to make sure you understand all the different aspects of your personalized treatment. So, the answer to “How long do braces take?” However long it takes for your smile to be healthy and beautiful!