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How Long Do You Need to Wear Braces?

Written by: Dr. Laura Edwards, Orthodontist

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Oleg Drut, Orthodontist and Diamond Braces CCO

Date: October 9, 2020

How Long Do You Have to Wear Braces?

Braces are worn for anywhere between 12 and 36 months. The average is about 24 months, but treatment lengths differ depending on your specific case and the type of treatment. More severe conditions take longer to treat, and very mild cases take less time.

Patient meeting with an orthodontist about braces treatment lengths

Other factors that contribute to the length of your treatment time:

  • Age of the patient

  • Patient's natural metabolic rate

  • Bone density

  • Certain medications that slow metabolism

  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)

  • Doctor's experience and expertise in the treatment mechanics

Age is a large factor in treatment lengths: generally, children can expect to wear braces for a shorter period, because their teeth and bones are still growing, which makes it faster and easier to move teeth into their correct positions. Their metabolism also tends to be faster. Adults tend to have denser, more settled teeth and bones, as well as a slower metabolism, so they generally wear braces longer, although this all depends on the specific case.

It is possible to get treatment in between 6-12 months, but this is the case only for select, qualifying patients with mild cases. This type of expedited treatment generally uses removable clear aligners like Invisalign for qualifying patients. Expedited 6-month treatment is used to correct minor issues, especially second-round treatment for patients who had previous orthodontic care and whose teeth have shifted. Most patients' treatment will take longer than 6 months. Learn more about express treatment with Invisalign.

As stated above, different treatment types have different expected lengths to produce results. Traditional metal braces are made of sturdy, robust metal, and tend to produce faster results when compared to ceramic or clear braces, and lingual braces.

The largest factor affecting the time you'll wear braces is the complexity of your specific case, the experience of your orthodontist, and the methods required to effectively straighten your teeth to create a healthy, beautiful smile.

When Will I See a Difference with Braces?

Orthodontist and assistant discuss a braces patient's treatment progress

While the full treatment takes 1-3 years, many patients report seeing results within the first few months of braces treatment. You may even start to notice results after 4 weeks.

You will certainly feel the effects of braces right away, so you'll know they're working: the braces appliance uses pressure on your teeth to gently and precisely move them into their correct positions.

If you're curious about the progress you make during braces treatment, take a selfie before you begin treatment and then a new selfie once a week to track the movement of your teeth. You can even take a few pictures of the various angles of your smile in order to get a better picture of the changes in your dental alignment.

You may be surprised at how quickly you notice changes in your smile!

Can You Shorten Braces Treatment Time?

While the length of your braces treatment time is determined largely by the complexity of your specific case and the experience of your orthodontist, there are things you can do to keep your treatment time as short as possible.

While patients get braces for the results they will produce and the beautiful smiles that they will create, many patients, especially older teens and adults, want to complete the treatment as soon as possible. The most important thing is to follow the doctor's instructions for braces care, and to keep your teeth and mouth healthy, so your treatment stays on track.

If you're concerned about braces taking too long, just remember: braces are an investment in your lifelong health and happiness. It may be a few months longer than you expected, but what are a few months compared to a lifetime of straight teeth and healthy, beautiful smiles!

Tips to Get Braces Off Faster

While you can't control the complexity of your orthodontic case, you can control how compliant you are during your braces treatment. This will keep your braces care on track, producing the speediest results and the healthiest, more effective outcomes.

Below are tips for getting your braces off as quickly as possible:

1. Follow your orthodontist's instructions carefully.

Diet restrictions, oral health routines, and regular orthodontic visits are all extremely important parts of your care. Make sure to pay attention when the doctor or assistant explains how to maintain your braces at home, and ask questions if you’re not sure about something.

2. Avoid any foods that could damage your braces.

Any breakage or damage to your braces can cause an interruption that will slow down your care. Avoid any foods that will get stuck in your brackets or put too much pressure on the appliance. Brush and floss regularly to remove any food debris stuck under the wires or around your brackets. Get tips on food do's and don'ts with braces.

3. Refrain from activities that could damage your braces, and wear protective gear.

One of the most common orthodontic emergencies is broken braces from playing sports. If you play a contact-heavy sport like basketball or wrestling, be sure to always wear a mouth-guard to protect your teeth and your braces appliance.

4. Brush and floss every day.

Keeping your teeth, mouth, and braces appliance clean and fresh is absolutely critical for effective, efficient braces treatment. Be sure to brush thoroughly twice a day and after meals, for 2 minutes each time. Floss between all of your teeth, using a floss threader to easily get under the archwire of your braces. You can also use a waterjet and mouthwash for an extra effective oral healthcare routine.

5. Deal promptly with any braces emergencies.

A broken wire or bracket is not effective in moving your teeth and will slow down your treatment. While many orthodontic emergencies can be handled at home, some will require an office visit. Read the below guide to learn what to do in an orthodontic emergency, and contact your orthodontist if any issues arise.

6. Attend all your orthodontic appointments.

Braces wearers will need to visit their orthodontist regularly for check-ups, adjustments, and replacement of certain parts of the appliance. How frequently you'll visit the doctor depends on the type of orthodontic treatment, but braces patients usually come to the office every 8-10 weeks. If you can't make an appointment, let your doctor know and reschedule as soon as possible. The adjustments are a necessary part of treatment, and if you go too long without a visit, your treatment will be slowed down as a result.

7. Select an experienced orthodontic professional.

The most experienced doctors know how to create lasting, reliable results in the shortest amount of time. Years of experience allow an orthodontist to select the most conservative, effective treatment plan, utilize the appliance most efficiently, and maximize the effectiveness of each step of treatment. When seeking an orthodontist, ask about their experience: where did they train, how many years have they been in practice, and how many patients have they treated with your specific treatment method. In addition, a specialist orthodontist will likely have more experience and skill than a general dentist.

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