Perhaps you’ve just been told by the dentist that you need braces. That’s right. You need braces! For some, those words might create excitement. For others such as yourself, they may be words you’ve dreaded hearing. If you’re an adult, your mind may go back to Marcia in The Brady Bunch trying to cope with first getting braces and saying, “Braces even ruin spaghetti.” Or, if your child just heard those three dreaded words, he or she might be thinking of Darla from Finding Nemo. The fish saw her as a hideous beast with a mouth full of metal. While these examples may be extreme thanks to advancements in orthodontics that have made braces more pleasant and crowd-pleasing, there is still the inescapable reality that they have to be worn. This leads us to a frequently asked question: “How long do I need to wear braces?” Let’s find out.
Since each patient is unique, the length of time he or she needs to wear braces varies based on a number of factors. Let’s look at three main factors that help determine how long it will take to create the perfect alignment of a winning smile.
- Age. Children often see results faster than adults. Research has shown that the earlier someone has braces put on, the faster the length of the treatment.
- The amount of correction needed. The more shifting needed, the longer it’s likely to take. Additionally, treatment times can vary depending on how quickly your body responds to treatment.
- The type of braces chosen or needed. Treatment options vary based on each patient’s unique needs and circumstances. Choices are made based on style, affordability, comfort, and other factors.
Here are three common types of braces:
Traditional Metal Braces
Traditional braces consist of metal brackets and wires with connecting rubber bands, all of which apply a gentle pressure that gradually moves your teeth into a straighter position. This treatment method has proven to be reliable and effective for decades, and today’s metal braces are much more comfortable than ever before.
Ceramic braces are similar to traditional metal braces because they involve brackets and metal wires that adjust the teeth over time to their prescribed position. However, ceramic and clear braces are exceptionally inconspicuous because the brackets are basically the same color as your teeth!
Clear aligners, such as Invisalign, are a series of nearly invisible, removable, acrylic trays that straighten your teeth like braces. We scan your teeth and then create a series of custom trays that are shaped to gradually move your teeth into a straighter smile.
Not only are the aligners clear and practically invisible, they are removable, so you can eat and drink what you want while in treatment. While we recommend wearing them around 22 hours a day, they are removable for big events and special occasions.
What you can expect
After we examine your mouth, we’ll take X-rays, photos, and then make plaster models of your teeth if necessary. These records help us estimate how long you’ll need to wear braces. It’s impossible to predict an exact timeline, but there are some general guidelines.
- Most patients will need to wear fixed braces for around 18 to 24 months.
- For problems that are harder to correct, or for our older patients, treatment may take up to three years.
- If you have less severe issues or are a good candidate for clear aligners like Invisalign, treatment may take as little as 6 to 12 months.
The part you play
There is one way you can maintain some control over the length of your treatment plan – your cooperation! Your willingness to always follow the instructions of your orthodontist plays a major role in the length of time it takes to complete your treatment. To keep from having to wear your braces longer than expected, take these steps to get the best results:
- Stick to all your scheduled appointment dates. When necessary, reschedule appointments as close to your original appointment date as possible.
- If you wear Invisalign aligners, take them out only as directed.
- If you have rubber bands attached to your braces or wear any nighttime headgear, make sure you follow all the directions you’ve been given. This is very important to keep the process on track.
- If you play any contact sports, we can fit you with a protective mouth guard. These will help protect your teeth and your braces.
- Avoid any foods that could damage your braces. Hard and sticky foods are your temporary enemies! These types of treats can break or displace your braces, or the wires that connect the brackets.
- Keep your teeth clean and healthy! This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people slack off on this one after a while. Follow our experienced team’s guidelines on dental hygiene to help avoid any oral health problems that could mean keeping braces on longer.
“Retain” your results
A retainer goes on after your braces come off and is an important addition to your orthodontic care. Old habits die hard. When braces come off, teeth like to revert back to their old positions. A retainer helps keep your new smile in place by giving your gums and jaws time to get used to the new positions of your teeth.
You’ll probably wear your retainer full-time for the first six months or so. If it’s removable, we’ll generally advise you to only take them out to eat, brush, and floss. Don’t worry — we’ll be sure to let you know the second you can switch to wearing your retainer only at night!
Ready to get started?
We hope you will give orthodontic treatment a try. We at Sawgrass Orthodontics are an experienced team that’s passionate about smiles, and we look forward to discussing your options! Schedule your free consultation right here on our website, and we will work to find a time that fits your schedule, for this and all of your future appointments.
- Dr. LangfordBack to Blog