How long will orthodontic treatment take?
In general, active treatment time with orthodontic appliances (braces) ranges
from one to three years. Interceptive, or early treatment procedures, may take
only a few months. The actual time depends on the growth of the patient's mouth
and face, the cooperation of the patient and the severity of the problem. Mild
problems usually require less time, and some individuals respond faster to treatment
than others. Use of rubber bands and/or headgear, if prescribed by the orthodontist,
contributes to completing treatment as scheduled.
While orthodontic treatment requires a time commitment, patients are rewarded
with healthy teeth, proper jaw alignment and a beautiful smile that lasts
a lifetime. Teeth and jaws in proper alignment look better, work better, contribute
to general physical health and can improve self-confidence.
Why does orthodontic treatment time sometimes last longer than anticipated?
Estimates of treatment time can only be that - estimates. Patients grow at
different rates and will respond in their own ways to orthodontic treatment.
The orthodontist has specific treatment goals in mind, and will usually continue
treatment until these goals are achieved. Patient cooperation, however, is
the single best predictor of staying on time with treatment. Patients who
cooperate by wearing rubber bands, headgear or other needed appliances as
directed, while taking care not to damage appliances, will most often lead
to on-time and excellent treatment results.
How Often Will I Need to See the Orthodontist During Treatment?
Your orthodontist will want to see you about every month to 6 weeks or so
in order to make sure that the braces are exerting steady pressure on your
teeth. To create more tension and pressure on your teeth, your orthodontist
will make adjustments in the wires, springs, or rubber bands of your braces.
In some cases, braces alone aren't enough to straighten the teeth or shift
the jaw. In these situations, an external appliance, such as a headgear may
need to be worn at home in the evening or through the night.
Will Braces Cause Pain?
Some of the adjustments your orthodontist may make to your braces may make
your mouth feel sore or uncomfortable. When needed, over-the-counter pain
relievers like Motrin or Tylenol can help relieve the pain. If you always
experience a lot of pain after your braces are adjusted, talk to your orthodontist
about it; he or she may be able to make the adjustments a bit differently.
Why do baby teeth sometimes need to be pulled?
Pulling baby teeth may be necessary to allow severely crowded permanent teeth
to come in at a normal time in a reasonably normal location. If the teeth
are severely crowded, it may be clear that some unerupted permanent teeth
(usually the canine teeth) will either remain impacted (teeth that should
have come in, but have not), or come in to a highly undesirable position.
To allow severely crowded teeth to move on their own into much more desirable
positions, sequential removal of baby teeth and permanent teeth (usually first
premolars) can dramatically improve a severe crowding problem. This sequential
extraction of teeth, called serial extraction, is typically followed by comprehensive
orthodontic treatment after tooth eruption has improved as much as it can
on its own.
After all the permanent teeth have come in, the pulling of permanent teeth
may be necessary to correct crowding or to make space for necessary tooth
movement to correct a bite problem. Proper extraction of teeth during orthodontic
treatment should leave the patient with both excellent function and a pleasing
What Care Can I Expect After the Braces Come Off?
After your braces are taken off, your teeth will be thoroughly cleaned. Your
orthodontist may want to take another set of x-rays and bite impressions to
check how well the braces straightened your teeth and to see if any wisdom
teeth have developed. If wisdom teeth are beginning to come in after your
braces have been removed, your orthodontist may recommend the wisdom teeth
be pulled to prevent your newly straightened teeth from shifting position
in your mouth.
Your orthodontist will also fit you with a retainer. A retainer is a custom-made,
removable appliance that help teeth to maintain their new position after braces
have been removed. Retainers can also be used to treat minor orthodontic problems.
The use of a retainer is a very important part of post-braces care. Retainers,
which are typically made of rubber or clear plastic and metal wires that cover
the outside surface of the teeth, need to be worn all the time for the first
6 months and then usually only during sleep. The time frame for wearing a
retainer will vary from patient to patient. The reason why a retainer is needed
is that even though braces may have successfully straightened your teeth,
they are not completely settled in their new position until the bones, gums,
and muscles adapt to the change. Also, after long periods of time, teeth tend
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