For most people wearing braces, knowing exactly how long their orthodontic treatment is likely to last is a priority. Whether wearing braces in the traditional sense or the more advanced clear aligners orthodontists often recommend, you naturally want to know how long you can expect it to take.
Unfortunately, providing a definitive answer or even an approximate timeline isn’t easy. Not only is every treatment plan different, but every patient also reacts differently to the various orthodontic treatment methods available. In addition, factors such as whether your teeth are still growing, the age of the patient, and the severity of the issues being treated can also affect treatment time. Having said that, here's a review of the best braces for adults to get a hang of it if you are past your teens.
What Is The Average Amount of Time a Patient Should Wear Braces?
As a very rough indication, patients need to wear braces for approximately 18 months to two years. Though in some instances it’s possible to correct minor problems within six months, just as some adult patients with more extensive issues may need to wear braces for up to three years to complete their treatment.
Primarily, it is the patient’s goals (and those of the orthodontist) that will determine how long the plan of treatment takes to complete. In some instances, a patient may only be looking to achieve moderate improvements to crooked teeth or the very slight adjustment of just one tooth. In other instances, they may wish to reposition any number (or all) of their teeth, calling for a much more extensive and lengthy orthodontic treatment plan.
Generally speaking, it is much quicker and simpler to correct problems with the teeth of children. This is because teeth that are still growing are easier to move than adult teeth - the latter therefore requiring longer treatment on average.
Metal Braces vs Invisalign
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t necessarily any orthodontic treatment device that is better than any others. Different devices are designed with different purposes and applications in mind - ceramic braces, metallic braces, clear aligners and so on.
The nature and extent of the issue to be corrected will determine which of the options available is suitable for you. Ask your orthodontist for their recommendations, if unsure which option is more appropriate for your requirements and your goals.
That said, there are obvious benefits to clear aligners many patients prefer. They can be practically invisible, they can cause less discomfort than traditional braces and they could even get the job done faster in some cases. Nevertheless, not all patients are considered suitable candidates for Invisalign treatment - nor do all orthodontists offer this treatment in the first place. Anyway, take a look for yourself at the best invisible braces.
Why Do People Need Braces?
Braces are worn by children and adults of all ages to straighten crooked teeth, address issues with crowded teeth and close gaps between the teeth. All forms of treatment involving braces technically fall within one of the following categories, or in some instances both:
1. Cosmetic Treatment - This is where an orthodontist provides a treatment plan to address issues with a patient’s teeth, purely to improve their appearance and not due to any potential issues with their oral health or general wellbeing.
2. Functional Treatment - There are often issues where crooked teeth or problems with alignment can lead to major problems if left unaddressed, such as difficulties chewing, the inability to bite with the front teeth and difficulties maintaining proper oral hygiene.
Some problems with the positioning and alignment of teeth pose a direct threat to the oral health of the patient, while others are purely cosmetic in nature. In both instances, your orthodontist will assess your requirements, provide you with their recommendations and give you an indication as to the approximate duration of your subsequent treatment plan.
How Do I Know If I Need to Wear Braces?
It is important to remember that there is a difference between needing braces and wanting braces.
If you are experiencing no particular issues with your oral health or wellbeing but are not happy with the straightness or positioning of your teeth, braces could help you get the smile you’ve always wanted. It’s possible that you don’t need braces as such, but could nonetheless benefit from them.
Where problems with the teeth or jaw are causing pain, discomfort or any other issues whatsoever, visiting the orthodontics office or dental office for a consultation should be prioritized. It is never advisable to attempt to diagnose potential oral health problems yourself - book an appointment with an orthodontist at your earliest convenience.
In any case, there does not necessarily need to be a major problem with your teeth or dental health for braces to make a big difference to your smile and confidence. Your orthodontist will explain the potential benefits of the orthodontic treatment options available during your appointment.
Can I Shorten The Time For Braces Treatment?
By now, we’ve clarified that the amount of time it takes to straighten teeth by wearing braces depends on a wide variety of factors. But is there anything you can do to reduce the amount of time you need to wear your dental device?
Is it possible (in some cases at least) to take practical steps to wear braces longer than would otherwise be necessary?
As before, the answer is a somewhat vague ‘maybe’. Actually speeding up the process of straightening crooked teeth and closing gaps isn’t something that’s usually possible. Nevertheless, what you can do is take steps to ensure the duration of your treatment doesn't have to be extended further than necessary.
This can be achieved by way of the following:
- Practice proper oral hygiene at all times, doing everything you can to keep your teeth, your gums and your braces in immaculate condition.
- Follow the instructions and advice of your orthodontist to the letter, with regard to how many hours per day you should wear your device and for how long in general. If they specify that your metal braces, ceramic braces or Invisalign braces should be worn for at least 18 hours per day, don’t reduce this to 12 hours and expect your retainer to work.
- Remember that it is possible for your requirements to change during the course of your treatment, which is why you must ensure you attend follow-up appointments as recommended by your dentist. Further impressions may need to be taken, in order to adjust your treatment and accelerate the outcome.
- Likewise, it’s also advisable to follow the recommendations of your orthodontics technician, with regard to the type of braces that best suit your requirements. Even if metal braces aren’t your preferred option, there are cases where they could be the fastest option available.
- Above all else, be as patient as possible and don’t try to rush your treatment plan to a conclusion. Attempting to adjust and correct issues with crooked teeth faster than it is safe to do so can lead to further complications and oral health problems.
Referring back to the initial question once again - how long do braces take to have the desired effect - the general ballpark is between six months and three years. Most minor to moderate issues can be corrected within a year or two, and treatment times are typically shorter with children than with adult patients.
Nevertheless, there are so many factors and variables that can affect treatment times that even approximating an average isn’t easy. Having realistic expectations is therefore important - try to avoid making presumptions before your appointment with your orthodontist.
Irrespective of how long they recommend you wear braces, it’s a small price to pay for a smile to be proud of for a lifetime.