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How long will I be in braces for?

By far, the most common question asked by patients considering orthodontics is “How long will I be in braces?”. Unfortunately the answer for each of us is different, so the only way to know for sure is through a consultation with an orthodontist.

With that in mind, it’s helpful to know what an Orthodontist will look for to help determine expected treatment time.

It’s important for parents to know that a child’s adult teeth need to be fully erupted to complete orthodontic treatment. This usually happens around age 12, so if your child is in need of early treatment, called Phase I treatment, orthodontic care will typically extend over several years. Phase I treatment is intended to make it easier for new adult teeth to be near their proper positions when the erupt by creating space or helping the jawbones properly align. Once Phase I treatment is completed, the doctor is able to fully bracket the permanent teeth and align them into their proper positions.

If teeth are minimally crowded, orthodontists have options to help them fit together better such as expanding the arch formed along the jaw by the teeth, or inter proximal reduction (IPR) where a very small amount of the enamel that covers the teeth is filed off so that each tooth will need less space to fit together in the arch. If there is significant crowding, extraction of one or more teeth may be required to create enough space for the remaining teeth. While orthodontists try to avoid extracting teeth whenever possible, there are limits to what can be achieved through the other strategies.

Proper alignment of your molars and bicuspids is one of the most important considerations for doctors because chewing of food needs to be both effective and minimize wear as we age. Fitting these teeth together properly involves positioning the cusps or points of the teeth fit into the valleys of the opposing teeth like a 3D puzzle. This type of correction may involve the use of additional appliances since wires and brackets alone are usually not the best tools for moving teeth along the arch.

Getting the proper fit of your front and back teeth requires the orthodontist to manage a lot of information and variables to get a great result. In treatment, large movements of the teeth are usually accomplished very quickly, but detailing the fit of the teeth will often take a year or more as the orthodontist works to minimize misalignments that will lead to relapse or other issues later in life. With 3D planning tools such as SureSmile, no longer have to solve this problem a little at a time by continually “tightening” braces over multiple appointments. Instead of this laborious approach, doctors can use software to visualize the optimal result for each patient and use precision robotics to customize arch wires in order to achieve an outstanding result.

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