Tuckahoe, NY – How long will I have to wear my braces? That’s probably the most common question orthodontic patients ask their orthodontist. But the answer might not be as simple as what you expect.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know exactly how long each patient will need to have their braces on,” says Dr. Sam Polan of Tuckahoe Family Orthodontics. “I can give you a time frame, but I can’t give you an exact week or day that your braces will come off. That’s because there are multiple factors that play into how quickly your treatment will go, and some of these things can’t be predicted before the treatment begins.”
The average length of treatment time for orthodontic patients is 18 months to two years. But some patients may find that they only need to wear their braces for a year or so, and others may be longer. So what factors play into how quickly your teeth will move?
- The first and most important factor that plays into your treatment time is the severity of the malocclusion, or how far out of position the teeth are. The more movement required to get the teeth into their correct position, the longer the treatment will take. Someone with mild dental crowding and a good bite will be in treatment for a relatively short period, while someone with severely displaced teeth and/or a significant bite discrepancy will spend more time in braces or Invisalign treatment.
- The next important factor is how well you take care of your braces and teeth during treatment. Braces and Invisalign both depend on teamwork, so treatment length will depend on how well you help out as a patient. While the orthodontist does the work of placing and adjusting your braces as needed, you have the important work of maintaining your braces. That means brushing and flossing properly, wearing any rubber bands as indicated, keeping all appointments as scheduled, and doing your best not to break or damage your appliances. If you’ve chosen Invisalign for your treatment, the aligners can only move your teeth when they are in your mouth, so be sure to wear them 22 hours each and every day. Doing all these things well goes a long way towards keeping treatment time to a minimum.
- Your age can also influence how quickly your teeth move. While it’s never too late to straighten your teeth, younger people do tend to experience faster tooth movement, and your orthodontist will often have more control over correcting the bite in patients whose jaws are still growing. “We recommend children have their first appointment with us at the age of seven,” says Dr. Polan. “And that’s because we can start looking at issues that might start to arise, and then craft a treatment plan that can offer the best, and fastest, results. Some of the work we do at a younger age can reduce the amount of time you’ll have to wear braces later.”
- The type of braces you choose also may play a role in how long you’ll wear them. Clear or ceramic braces may be preferred over metal braces by some people for their nicer esthetics, but sometimes the treatment may take a bit longer with ceramic braces because they tend not to hold up as well over time as metal braces. Clear braces can still get the job done and can still be a great option, but there is a reason why metal braces have been around so long – they are very effective. When comparing braces with Invisalign, often there is not much difference in treatment length, but there are times where one or the other may be a more efficient approach to fixing your teeth. Ask your orthodontist, and he or she will let you know if either braces or Invisalign may be better for your particular situation.
- For some people, their mouths simply take a bit longer to respond to orthodontic appliances than others. Teeth move in response to gentle pressures applied by braces or Invisalign, and not everybody’s teeth will respond at the same speed to these pressures. This isn’t something that can be predicted before treatment begins, so the timeframe your orthodontist provides will only be his or her best estimate as to how long treatment will take.
“It’s important when wearing braces or Invisalign not to compare your treatment to anyone else’s,” says Dr. Polan. “Maybe your best friend only had to wear braces for 12 months, but your malocclusion might be much more complicated, so you might be closer to the 18-24 month range. At your initial consultation, I’ll give you my best estimate as to how long treatment will take, and throughout your treatment, I’ll provide updates so you can always be aware of your progress.”
Orthodontic treatment is a commitment that can’t be rushed. While wearing braces for two years might not seem ideal, once you see your beautiful smile at the end of treatment, it will all be worth it.
“This is the best part,” says Dr. Polan. “I love seeing patients’ joy when they’ve finished their treatment and see that the time they put in has paid off with a great result.”