Dental braces are corrective treatments prescribed for a variety of orthodontic problems. Getting braces is a long-term process that requires a lot of cooperation and regular maintenance. Let’s look at how braces work and how long braces take to straighten teeth.
How Do Braces Straighten Teeth?
Whether your teeth are too crowded together or there is too much space between them, braces are an excellent treatment option.
Braces also help in the treatment of overbites, underbites, and other jaw misalignment problems. They exert pressure over a period of time to move the teeth to the desired position.
Prepping for Braces
Before you get your braces, your dentist will conduct a full oral exam of your teeth, jaws, and mouth to identify all your issues and formulate a treatment plan.
As the positioning of teeth differs from person to person, a series of measurements need to be taken to create fixtures that will give the best results. X-rays and plaster moulds of your mouth that are made by biting into a soft material for a few minutes are used to fine-tune your treatment plan.
In cases where you have to get braces because of overcrowding, you might need to get a few teeth extracted to create space for the rest of the teeth to fit in comfortably.
Depending on the severity of your orthodontic problems, you might even need to get minor surgery in combination with dental braces to sort out all your issues.
Basic Parts of Dental Braces
Braces have three basic parts:
Brackets made of stainless steel, ceramic, or plastic are attached to your teeth using glue. Depending on the type of braces you are getting, the brackets may be attached to the front or rear side of your teeth. Brackets act as anchors for the other parts that help straighten teeth.
These are flexible wires that connect all the brackets together. They can be made of stainless steel, nickel-titanium or copper titanium. Archwires are tightened regularly to apply pressure on your teeth and create movement.
These are elastic bands, also known as O-rings or ligatures. They are placed around the brackets and help connect the brackets to the archwire. Bands exert corrective pressure on your jaw.
An important part of orthodontic treatment using braces is the regular adjustments to different parts of the braces. As the treatment involves moving the teeth from their original alignment to a more desirable one, your dentist will need to conduct regular check-ups to ensure that the teeth are moving properly.
You will need to visit your dentist every three to four weeks to adjust the wires or bands on your braces. The adjustments will ensure the correct amount of pressure is applied to your teeth and jaws but may cause soreness and discomfort for a few days. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the pain.
Retainers are an important part of the dental brace treatment plan. Just because you have finished your treatment and removed your braces doesn’t mean that your problems have been completely fixed.
Retainers are removable plastic or wire moulds that stabilise your teeth after treatment and prevent them from shifting back to their old positions. Retainers are usually recommended to be worn during sleep, but they can be removed when eating and brushing teeth anyway.
The amount of time that people have to wear retainers changes from person to person. As teeth tend to shift back after long periods, retainers are typically recommended as post-brace treatment indefinitely.
How Long Does the Process Usually Take?
A lot of factors determine how long braces take to straighten teeth. The treatment time can vary based on the severity of your problem, your oral health, and the amount of space between your teeth.
Dental braces need to be worn anywhere between six months to three years, depending on how much your teeth need to be moved. Your teeth move approximately one millimetre per month. The average treatment time in most cases is two years.
The age at which you get your braces doesn’t affect treatment time as such. However, most people get braces between 8 and 14 years of age as facial muscles are still developing and teeth are easier to move.
Factors Which Can Affect the Treatment Time
Each person has unique requirements, not customising the fixtures according to the anatomy of the tooth and characteristics of the patient’s problems will increase treatment time. However, if you personalise clinical decisions, the treatment will be more efficient.
Planning Treatment Stages
Teeth are more pliable or quick to move during the initial stages of treatment. Proper planning of the treatment procedures in the initial stages will prevent uncontrolled tooth movement.
Time between Appointments
Duration of intervals between appointments will affect how long braces take to straighten teeth. An appointment is normally made every three to four weeks to see if the treatment is on track.
Sometimes intervals between appointments are extended to five or six weeks. However, shorter intervals between visits and regular appointments with your dentist provide better control over treatment.
Treatment time varies depending on the patient’s cooperation with the procedure. Missing appointments and breaking or damaging braces lengthens treatment time.
Apart from missed appointments and broken or damaged braces, the time taken for treatment does not vary with the age of the patient.
Some treatments will require extractions and some won’t. The treatment duration is usually shorter for non-extraction cases.
The number of extractions can also drive up treatment time by 3 to 6 months. If you have two extractions, you will need to wear braces for almost two years. With four extractions, treatment typically lasts around 28 months.
Getting braces or other forms of orthodontic treatments can increase the quality of life and boost self-esteem. They have psychological effects apart from their physical benefits as a result of improvement in appearance.
Even though they can be a long term commitment, they offer a permanent solution to most common orthodontic problems.