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If you ever wondered why braces take so long, I’m sure you also researched ways to make them faster. Articles suggesting that you brush your teeth and avoid hard foods aren’t that helpful, right? Is there even a way to speed up braces, and if so, will your orthodontist agree to do it?
While speeding up treatment with braces is a possibility, it doesn’t significantly shorten treatment time. Acceledent, low-level lasers and micro-osteoperforation can all accelerate tooth movement slightly, but they’re rarely used in practice.
As a patient, there are some things you can do to ensure that your treatment doesn’t extend more than it has to, but it won’t necessarily shorten its duration.
In this article I’m going to address some common questions patients have about speeding up their time in braces, and why it’s rarely possible. I know, not the good news you might be expecting, but it’s the safest way to straighten your teeth and correct that bite.
What can your orthodontist do to Speed Up Your time in Braces?
The average orthodontic treatment with traditional braces takes 18 to 24 months. If you need extractions or orthognathic surgery, you’ll likely spend more time in braces than someone who just needs minor corrections.
Your orthodontist won’t attempt to move teeth faster than their biology allows it, but some things do affect the overall duration of treatment, especially when dealing with stubborn teeth that get stuck.
Here are the main 5 things that I believe “speed up” treatment, or at least keep it from running longer than it has to:
1. Never putting off tasks
This is a big one, and I believe it’s the biggest cause for treatments that run for 2-3 years or longer. What do I mean by not putting off things that need to get done? Well, all orthodontists are guilty of this.
Your ortho might notice a bracket that needs repositioning and think – “I’ll do it next month“. Or skip changing wires because it’s a busy day and they’re already running late. Or even more commonly, skip bonding those last molars indefinitely.
Postponing little things can add up, and before you know it, you’ve been in braces for two years and you’re only halfway through treatment. While you can’t change your orthodontist’s way, you can let him or her know the things you notice in your teeth. If you suspect your doctor is too sloppy, I strongly suggest you find another one.
2. Self-ligating braces
Some orthodontists are die-hard fans of self-ligating braces. They claim braces like Damon are much faster and produce better results.
So should you invest some extra dollars into self-ligating braces, or are they just hype? According to studies, braces like Damon are indeed faster during the alignment stage. However, after the teeth are aligned, self-ligating braces work just like traditional braces.
Keep in mind that the alignment phase only takes about 4-6 months, so you’re essentially saving no more than 2-3 months in treatment time. Of course, some doctors will claim to treat complex cases in as little as 12 months, but that’s not the norm.
I believe the best thing about self-ligating braces is that you don’t need as many appointments to activate them, and they’re much more hygienic than regular braces. For these two reasons alone, I would recommend them.
3. Low-level lasers
You won’t find an orthodontist routinely using low-level lasers on their patients, but lasers are a good tool in particular cases where teeth can get stuck in bone.
Lasers are an expensive tool that not all orthodontists have in their practice, although it’s become more popular recently for doing gum surgery at the end of orthodontic treatment.
Lasers are proven to stimulate tooth movement in cases like impacted canines, for example, however, it’s important to get the dosage right. If you’re dealing with an impacted canine, age is a huge factor. The higher the age, the more you risk your impacted tooth getting stuck inside the bone, in which case it needs to be extracted and replaced with an implant.
Acceledent is a popular low-vibration device that’s recommended in conjunction with Invisalign but can be used with traditional braces as well. Scientists still debate whether it works or not, with studies contradicting each other.
The biggest issue I find with Acceledent is compliance. You’re supposed to use it at home for 20 minutes per day, although some studies have found vibration to be efficient when used far less than 20 minutes. In the end, more than half of the patients abandon Acceledent altogether.
It’s understandable, since brushing 15 minutes per day is already a burden. But if you factor this in, along with the added cost of Acceledent, I don’t think it’s worth it.
Micro-osteoperforation (MOP) or minimally invasive corticotomy is a surgical procedure meant to inflict micro-trauma to the alveolar bone in an effort to activate tooth movement and shorten treatment time. This involves poking shallow holes in strategic places between the teeth’ roots, where the bone resists tooth movement.
Either the orthodontist or an oral surgeon will perform this procedure using a manual or motorized screwdriver or a piezoelectric device. As the bone heals, it activates osteoblasts and osteoclasts, cells responsible for bone remodeling as well as tooth movement.
MOP and corticotomies, which are more invasive, can increase the speed of treatment up to 62%. However, don’t expect this treatment option to be routinely offered by your orthodontist. We only use it in select cases, usually periodontally compromised patients, or cases where tooth movement is slow.
What can you do at home to speed up braces?
Now that we’ve covered what goes on in the orthodontist’s office, it’s time to focus on what you can do at home to make sure you won’t stay in braces longer than you have to. You’ve probably seen all these recommendations before, but it won’t hurt to do a recap:
What doesn’t work?
If you’re eager to make your braces work faster, here’s what doesn’t work (so you know not to suggest it to your orthodontist):
We all wish there was a quicker way to straighten teeth with braces. But unfortunately, none of the solutions mentioned above significantly cut treatment time, not to mention they come with added costs.
Self-ligating braces or clear aligners might be an option if you want slightly faster results, but your orthodontist’s skills matter more than the techniques he/she uses. Rest assured, traditional braces will work just as well. You just need to be patient.
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: