So it’s finally time to see the orthodontist, and you’ve scheduled your first appointment. If you’re like most new patients, you’ve got at least two big questions:
- Will it hurt when I get my braces? (No.)
- How long will I have to wear my braces?
We can tell you that for most patients, treatment time lasts 18 months to two years. Still, every case is different, so to estimate your treatment time, we take several factors into account:
What we find during your initial examination
During the first examination, we check your bite and look for alignment or crowding issues. If all the permanent teeth have not yet erupted, we evaluate whether there is enough space for the rest of them. We determine if a space maintainer or expander may be beneficial or whether any teeth will require extraction. In adults, we also examine existing dental work or any gaps where teeth are missing. [Read more about adult braces.]
Once we complete our assessment, we have a better idea of your treatment timeline. More complicated cases — patients who have significant crowding, a severe bite issue, or a problem with the jaw — will require more time to achieve optimal results.
We recommend that children have an initial orthodontic screening at age 7, even though we typically do not begin treatment that early. However, if a child is a candidate for early orthodontic intervention, starting at a younger age can correct issues that could become worse over time. This early treatment may reduce the total time in braces if a second comprehensive phase is necessary later.
Previous orthodontic treatment
When early treatment is warranted, a successful first stage of treatment can prepare the mouth for subsequent treatment when the child is a little older. Often this two-stage approach can prevent early undesirable growth issues and lead to an overall better smile.
What about products that claim to shorten treatment time?
If you Google “shorten orthodontic treatment,” “reduce time in braces” or a similar phrase, you find listings for products and treatments that claim to reduce your overall treatment time — sometimes by as much as 50 percent.
It’s understandable that you might be interested in learning about these treatments. Who wouldn’t want to get faster results?
But think about this for a minute: Will a faster treatment give you the smile you want, and will the results be healthy and stable?
Our practice’s goal is to give you the healthiest bite and most beautiful smile possible. That means addressing all those problems we found during the initial exam and anything else that keeps you from having the smile you want. The process takes planning and time and requires a whole-mouth approach.
Can you shorten treatment time with some of the products you’ve seen advertised? Well, technically, the answer is yes, but let’s take a look at some of the options:
Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles is a braces system used by general dentists, targeting patients 16 and older. The company claims an average treatment time of six months. There’s a reason the treatment time is shorter, and it’s not because the teeth move faster. On its website, Six Month Smiles says, “the key components of the treatment are the use of unique clear braces and a primary focus of moving the teeth that show when you smile.” The treatment time is shorter because you’re only treating some of the teeth. Furthermore, this treatment is only offered by general dentists, who do not have the specialty training and licensure that an orthodontist does.
Focusing on only front teeth might be OK if you already have a good bite and a little minor crowding. However, for most patients, Six Month Smiles will not deliver the best possible results and could even exacerbate existing problems with the bite and the jaws. Also, since the braces are removed after six months, the results are not always stable.
Smile Direct Club
Smile Direct Club is a mail-order system of invisible aligners that claims to have an average treatment time of five months. The customer makes an impression at home, mails it in, and receives a series of aligners.
Just like Six Month Smiles, this treatment doesn’t address bite and jaw issues, which may or may not be detected when the customer’s impression is submitted and reviewed. It also skips the comprehensive exam that every patient needs before beginning orthodontic treatment to ensure the mouth is healthy enough to proceed. Without an orthodontist to monitor progress or deliver more advanced care if a problem arises, Smile Direct customers are putting their oral health at risk.
Some new orthodontic technologies have promising early results in reducing treatment times, but they also add significant cost. A few examples:
- Suresmile uses robotic and 3D technology to produce a set of archwires. The company says that the teeth respond more precisely, leading to fewer adjustments and less treatment time.
- AcceleDent is a device that patients use 20 minutes a day during orthodontic treatment with braces or clear aligners. The device produces vibration pulses that the company asserts will accelerate tooth movement. An important note: There are other devices on the market available directly to the consumer that claim to work in a similar way. Never use any device unless instructed to do so by your orthodontist. You could do serious harm to teeth and dental tissues.
- Propel is used during orthodontic treatment to make micro bone perforations in the jaws, which Propel says accelerates tooth movement. This procedure is fairly invasive and can be painful and uncomfortable.
As more orthodontists use these technologies, we will learn more about the achieved results and how they can be used with more traditional treatments. We’ll also have better information to weigh benefits against cost.
Is there anything I can do to reduce my treatment time?
Yes! Did you know that just by following our instructions, you can help shorten your treatment time? It’s true. Your compliance directly affects your results. So, wear and care for your braces as instructed. Attend your regular appointments and maintain proper dental hygiene to achieve the best and fastest results! (And earn points for great rewards!)
Learn more about treatment time
The best way to estimate your treatment time is to come in for a complimentary consultation. To request your appointment at any of our three locations, please call 540-563-1640 or use our appointment request form.
For more information about starting treatment, visit the New Patients section of our website. We work with all insurances, will help you understand your benefits and will file for you. We also have several payment options and a family care program that includes discounts for additional family members.
— The Roanoke Valley Orthodontics team