How Long Does Orthodontic Treatment Take?

ortho-treatment-mainOne question we hear on a daily basis deals with the length treatment our patients will be in braces. Each orthodontist/dentist will have a different answer for this question, sometimes varying as much as a year or more! So what gives?

There are several factors that determine the total treatment time; the following two are among the least understood:

1. The first is our biology. Teeth only require a small amount of constant force to move. Under these light forces, the tooth will move at a healthy rate of less than 1mm per month. If your doctor tries to move teeth faster than that by applying more force, there can be negative consequences – excessive mobility (loosening of the teeth) or damage to roots/surrounding bone and gums. So, slow and steady is better when it comes to braces; and the further out of position that the teeth started – the longer the treatment will take.

2. Another factor that determines how long your braces will be on is the “completeness” of treatment. Orthodontic treatment is done in stages. The first stage is straightening the teeth, followed by correcting the bite (making the top and bottom teeth fit together). The first stage takes place relatively quickly, and the second is more of a challenge, taking more time. If the doctor’s only goal is to straighten the teeth without correcting the bite, the treatment will be very fast. This is how some dentists and orthodontists advertise a shorter time with braces – the treatment is often times incomplete. Unfortunately, straightening the teeth while neglecting to treat a bad bite can have one or more of the following negative consequences:

  • Much more likely to experience relapse
  • Function of the jaws may be compromised (inability to chew efficiently or bite through foods)
  • Increase risk of TMJ disorders (joint problems of the jaws)
  • Poor esthetics

ortho-treatment-bracesOther factors that play a role in how long your braces will be on are: the doctor’s skill, compliance of the patient, complexity of the bite to begin with.  These require less of an explanation and will affect not only the time in treatment, but also the quality of the outcome.

So when you hear about 6-month treatment or fast braces from a dentist, take into consideration the points we talked about.  Get the most for your investment and see an orthodontist who will give you the best treatment and results.

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