I want my braces off already!

Orthodontic treatment can have life changing benefits. It can transform smiles, improve speech and function, and increase overall self esteem. However creating a beautiful and healthy smile is not an overnight process.

The most common question I am asked from patients is “when are my braces coming off”. This can be a very difficult question to answer. The average orthodontic treatment can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months but may sometimes take much longer depending on the severity of the case and each patient’s response to the braces. Age, health of the gums and supporting bone, and genetics all play a factor in how fast people’s teeth move. It is therefore very difficult for orthodontists to give an exact date for the completion of braces. A range is more suitable and actually more realistic

Tooth movement is a complex and delicate process. Moving teeth too fast can result in deleterious and permanent damage to the roots, gums, and supporting bone. Each time a tooth is moved it needs time to “recover”. Just like our body needs a period of rest after physical exercise, the special cells that surround the tooth also need time to heal following movement. That is why most orthodontic patients are seen at monthly intervals as opposed to daily or weekly appointments.

Convincing a young teen to be patient is probably one of the most challenging aspects of being an orthodontist! It is important however to understand that tooth movement is a subtle process and gentle forces need to be used. The belief that stronger forces will move teeth faster is misleading and false.

Teeth that have been recently moved also have a greater tendency to relapse and move back to their original position. Taking the braces off too soon may therefore not give enough time for teeth to stabilize and will likely cause them to shift.

Even though 2 years of braces seems like a long time, it is actually very reasonable when considering the intricacy and complexity of tooth movement. Taking the braces off too soon will compromise the stability of the results. On the other hand, leaving the braces on too long can be harmful. A perfect balance is needed, a task the right orthodontist will have mastered.

Dr. Reza Salmassian is a Board Certified Orthodontist. For any questions regarding this article or to schedule your complimentary orthodontic consultation please call 661-222-7444

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