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If you’re reading this, you’re not new to braces. Your teeth may have shifted after your first round of orthodontic treatment, or you’re just unsatisfied and want to give braces another try. But can you even get braces a second time, and is the treatment any different?
You can absolutely get braces twice, or even multiple times, although that’s less common. People often get braces a second time to treat orthodontic relapse. Not wearing retainers or wearing them insufficiently can cause teeth to shift, which is the number one reason for getting braces again.
Shifted teeth aren’t the only reason why patients decide to get braces a second time. So if you don’t fit this description, read on. Hopefully, you’ll get your question answered soon.
Why would you need braces a second time?
If you live in a country like the US, you probably had braces growing up. The more developed a country is, the earlier people can afford treatment for their kids. But now, as an adult reading this, you’re probably not satisfied with how your smile turned out.
You’re more likely to need and want braces again if:
- It’s been a long time since your orthodontic treatment and your teeth got crowded again;
- You had braces to correct gapped teeth but the gaps have reappeared;
- You already had braces but you’re unsatisfied with the result;
- Your bite isn’t right and you have temporomandibular joint problems;
- You have periodontitis and it’s causing your teeth to shift.
Obviously, it’s up to your orthodontist to decide whether you actually need braces, especially if you have a medical problem like periodontitis or TMJ issues. These are complex multidisciplinary treatments, and we won’t be addressing them today.
Instead, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: not wearing your retainers.
Wearing braces twice because of relapse
When patients don’t wear their retainers enough or skip them altogether, teeth inevitably shift. This generally happens within the first years after braces, but it can happen later in life, too.
Our teeth naturally shift as our bones and muscles change. While that shift is not obvious in many people with naturally straight teeth, it’s something we’re trying to avoid if you’ve had braces. This is why we promote long-term retainers as the only surefire way to keep your teeth where they are.
Yes, retainers are annoying, but it’s the trade you must make if you want lifelong straight teeth. Narrow jaws, gapped teeth, crowded and protruded teeth – they all want to return to the status quo because that’s where your facial muscles guide them. In a way, we go against nature by straightening our teeth.
Getting braces a second time is quite common, and you’ll have your issue fixed in no time. But the second time around you must promise yourself to wear your retainers diligently and/or ask for a permanent retainer (usually on your bottom front teeth).
If you only notice minor relapse on one arch, you may be a good candidate for single arch treatment. Check these articles to see if you can get braces on just your top or just your bottom teeth:
- Braces on Top Teeth Only – Here’s When You Can Get Them
- Braces on Bottom Teeth Only – Is It Really a Good Idea?
Wearing braces twice because you’re unsatisfied with the result
Adult cases are often complicated, and some treatments may not go according to plan. Your orthodontist may have misdiagnosed you or failed to address your chief complaint. Or it may have been partially your fault, too – missed appointments, refusing surgery or extractions, etc. It’s a painful subject, and there’s no use in dwelling on the past.
We see patients who’ve had extractions come to get their spaces reopened because they don’t like how their smile looks once their teeth have been retracted. Some patients finally have the courage and finances to go for orthognathic surgery.
Other patients want a wider smile or want to get rid of their gummy smile, even if they’ve had braces in their childhoods. Braces have come a long way and we’re now able to do many things that weren’t possible in the past.
Do you have to get braces again if your teeth shifted?
Minor orthodontic relapse is not a medical reason to get braces. So no, you don’t actually NEED braces. But you can certainly get them if you want to. Or you can go to your dentist and see if you’re a good candidate for dental bonding or veneers to mask those imperfections.
However, if the thought of getting braces twice isn’t that appealing to you, you can just get new retainers that fit your current dental situation.
Getting fresh retainers is a great way to make sure that your teeth will stay where they are and won’t become more crooked. In fact, it’s best to renew your retainers every few years, and have a spare set in case you lose one.
Can you get braces a second time for free?
No orthodontist will offer to treat your relapse for free unless it’s a quick fix immediately after getting braces off, and the relapse is somehow their fault (hint: it’s usually not, and they’re doing you a favor).
Orthodontists are investing many resources: braces, wires, adhesives, chair time, assistants, etc. Not to mention the biggest resource of all, their time and expertise.
Getting braces for the second time still requires the same effort in planning, bonding, and appointments, although your treatment may be shorter. It most certainly won’t be free, but you can expect reduced costs because of the lower complexity of your case.
Does insurance cover braces a second time?
Depending on where you live, you may get your braces covered by dental insurance, but don’t expect your insurance to cover a second round of orthodontic treatment.
Unfortunately, braces are seen as a one-time deal by medical insurers, even if you need them a second time, either for aesthetics or more serious issues. I might be wrong, so do check with your insurer, depending on where you are, but that’s usually the case.
How long do braces take if you already had them?
Treating minor to moderate orthodontic relapse takes anywhere between 6 to 12 months. Clear aligners are often more effective in treating relapse because their movements are more precise.
Regular braces are also fast, because the arches are already shaped the way they’re supposed to, and we only need to do some quick alignment. In fact, you could only get partial braces (like social six lingual braces, for example) to correct a misaligned incisor in as little as 4-6 months.
If your case is more complex, or you’re embarking on a full orthodontic treatment, expect to have braces on for 18 to 24 months – that’s how long it usually takes to go through all the phases and correct any issues you might still have after the first round of braces.
Why do some kids need braces twice?
If you’re a parent and your child needs to wear braces again, you’re probably familiar with phase 1 and phase 2 treatment. Phase 1 and phase 2 in orthodontics are not the same as getting braces twice. They’re two distinct treatments that complement each other and are done at different stages of development.
During phase one, orthodontists usually place expanders to permanently widen arches and make room for permanent teeth. Not all children who need braces will need expanders, but they’re often beneficial.
Phase two is when the actual braces get bonded, once the permanent teeth have erupted. This usually happens between 11 to 14 years, check this article on the best age for braces to learn more.
Is it ok to repeat braces treatment? Do braces damage teeth?
If you’re worried that getting braces again may harm your teeth, rest assured there’s no difference between getting braces the first and second time around. Braces won’t damage your teeth per se, but they can cause issues indirectly:
Removing braces can also cause some microscopic scratching on your enamel, but it’s nothing a little polishing won’t fix. However, getting braces multiple times can make these scratches worse.
Try to avoid getting braces a second or third time if you have a lot of dental work like crowns, fillings, and implants. While getting braces in these situations is certainly possible, it’s best not to bond them on artificial teeth too often, because we might damage them.
Braces aren’t fun the second time around, and you probably know this. But getting braces as an adult is different, and I might argue, better, than getting braces as a teenager. You’ll be more careful, self-aware, and responsible. And as a bonus, your treatment will be shorter, too.
Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze: