Orthodontics refers to the straightening of teeth using braces and other helpful tools. Besides teeth straightening, orthodontics can also be used to treat other issues, such as overbite correction and jaw realignment. Thanks to advancements in modern orthodontics, bulky traditional metallic braces are all but a thing of the past for many patients.
If you have just been told you need braces, your first question is likely pertaining to the time you will need treatment for. The length of your specific orthodontic treatment depends on a few different factors, and although each patient is unique, there are a few common variables that determine treatment times in general.
How long will I need braces for?
Orthodontic treatment time depends on a variety of factors, including age, the amount of correction required and the type of braces chosen for treatment.
Because children have jaws that are still developing, their teeth are more easily moved than adults. The jaw stops growing and therefore stops being malleable once we enter adulthood. After early adolescence, our adult teeth are set into a jawbone that is hardened into its final position and size. As a result of having softer jawbone, children often see results much more quickly than adult patients.
Level of correction needed
If a patient is in need of extreme orthodontic treatment, especially in combination with overbite, underbite or crossbite correction, treatment times can be longer. The more shifting that is needed, the longer the treatment will take. Sometimes, even with the same amount of correction needed, some patients respond differently to treatment due to unforeseen factors like tooth shape and jawbone density.
Type of braces
Metal braces, although the least pleasing to the eye, take the shortest amount of time to complete orthodontic treatment. The metal brackets and ligatures can put much higher pressure on the teeth and move them quicker than with other options, such as clear braces or invisible aligners. Invisible aligners are often only used when a few teeth need correction, not for big shifts in the smile.
For those with overbite, underbite or crossbite, metal braces are most effective.
Elastics and other devices
If the bite needs to be shifted to either side, forward or backward to make sure the upper and lower teeth line up, elastics may be used to nudge the jaw in the right direction. Keeping up with wearing elastics is a big determining factor in treatment time. Skipping just a few days of wearing rubber bands can set treatment times back weeks.
Other devices, like expanders that require a key, must be paid close attention and used as instructed to cut down on treatment times.
Your orthodontic treatment time can be as short as six months or over a year. Some patients who need severe corrections may wear braces for multiple years. However, keep in mind that all orthodontic treatment is only temporary, and the beautiful results will be well worth the wait.
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