The length of time that orthodontic braces must be worn varies from patient to patient. On average though, treatment will typically last between 18 -24 months.
There are 3 major factors involved when moving teeth through the use of orthodontic braces: the amount of force applied, the duration that that force is applied and the natural healing process that must take place. It’s important to understand each of these factors.
In order to begin moving a tooth, a light and gradual force must be applied. This force is generated by the ligature wires and applied at the brackets on each tooth.
Teeth are able to move because the periodontal ligament, what holds the tooth to the bone, is elastic. Because these tissues are living, they can be changed and reshaped. While an excessive amount of force will damage these tissues, too light of a force won’t promote any change or movement. So an even balance of pressure is required.
Even if a perfect amount of pressure is applied to a tooth, it won’t move sufficiently unless the pressure is applied for the correct amount of time. This is due to how the body removes and rebuilds the bone surrounding the tooth.
Cells known as osteoclasts remove bone and ligament in order to allow for movement of the tooth. Additionally, osteoblasts rebuild bone, ligament and cementum to maintain the new position of the tooth. An easy way to visualize this is to consider how a hot knife goes through butter. It melts and separates on one side while reforming and coming together on the other side.
Lastly, and most importantly, is the healing process. If a tooth is moved too quickly it won’t be allowed to heal properly. Just like muscle fibers need time to rebuild after a strenuous workout, the tissues, bones and ligaments of teeth need time to heal reform. This healing time is imperative for treatment with orthodontic braces to be a success.
Can I Make My Orthodontic Braces Work Faster?
While we can in fact move teeth at a faster rate, as you have now learned it would be dangerous and damaging to do so. A slow, gradual movement is required to produce a positive outcome from your orthodontic treatment. But there are ways that you can help speed up the process, or at least avoid lengthening it.
The first is to begin orthodontic treatment as early as possible. It has been deemed by the AAO that children should be evaluated by an orthodontist as early as age 7.
Being able to catch oral health problems before they worsen, and cause more issues, makes a world of difference.
Maintaining proper care of your orthodontic braces is crucial to staying within the estimated treatment timeline. You should floss at least once a day, brush your teeth after every meal and before you go to bed. The purpose of this isn’t just to keep your braces clean. The healthier your gums are, the faster your teeth will move. It’s absolutely necessary to avoid candy, chewing gum and other hard foods your orthodontist warns against. These can bend or break the ligature wire and cause the brackets to come off and in turn slow down treatment.
If any part of your orthodontic braces break or come loose, you should contact your orthodontist and schedule an appointment immediately. Lastly, if you’re required to wear elastics, wear them at all times and be sure to change them every 24 hours.
Moving teeth with orthodontic braces is a delicate and complicated process. How long it takes depends on the level of health of the teeth, gums and supporting bone; the distance the teeth must travel, the amount of room available and the severity of the problems present. These are all factors that determine the length of orthodontic treatment. While it’s not safe to move teeth too quickly, you can help the process run more smoothly by properly taking care of your orthodontic braces and following the instructions of your orthodontist. You may not shorten the actual treatment time, but you will avoid costly mistakes and complications that could lengthen it.