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When you’re getting braces, the first month can be rough. Seeing little changes in your teeth will help keep you in good spirits. Luckily, teeth start shifting quite soon after bonding braces or getting aligners, but these movements don’t become noticeable right away. Just how soon can you expect results with braces? Learn more in this article.
Most patients can expect to see noticeable results after 4 to 6 weeks of braces. This applies to a typical case of moderately crooked teeth. However, if your teeth are straight or if you have gaps to close, it may take much longer, because your teeth don’t need much aligning.
Braces move teeth at a different rate for everyone. If you’re younger or your bones are softer, expect a higher rate of movement. If your bones are strong or you’re an adult, it may take longer to see results. In the end, bone remodeling is what dictates the speed of movement.
Aside from bone remodeling, you also need to factor in the type of malocclusion you have. Severe crowding, moderate crowding, spacing, and extraction cases all behave differently. Depending on what category you’re in, you may not see your teeth visibly change for a long time. So if you’re impatient and worried, know that your braces are still working, even if it seems like they’re not doing anything.
When can you notice the first changes with braces?
When getting braces, your doctor will run thin, flexible wires through them. Or if you’re getting aligners, they’ll be tight at first. Your braces will start acting on your teeth right away, but you won’t see your teeth shifting any sooner than 4 weeks or so.
The roots will need to become loose inside the bone and stay loose so that they can easily move where they need to go. Check this article on loose teeth and how teeth move with braces. So while you won’t see any visible difference for the first month, you’ll definitely feel things happening.
The first month is arguably the most difficult and painful period of the entire orthodontic treatment, but once it’s over, you’ll see your teeth straightening.
After 4 to 6 weeks you may notice some slight changes. Teeth move at a rate of 1mm per month or less, and some patients are excited to see changes, while others have a slower bone metabolism and don’t see a huge difference in their smile.
How crooked your teeth are is also a factor in how quickly you may see results. If your teeth are overlapping slightly, you’ll see an impressive correction right away. However, if your teeth are very crowded, they may not have enough room to straighten in the first couple of months.
Crowded teeth get aligned by flaring, so don’t panic if you see your teeth starting to flare and stick out. Sometimes they need to get worse before getting better. You’ll be wearing rubber bands or even getting extractions to get rid of flared teeth, but it takes time.
If your teeth aren’t crowded at all, you may notice gaps forming in between your front teeth. I know, not the result you wanted to see, but again, don’t panic. Your smile is becoming wider and it’s all part of the process. Your orthodontist will close the gaps soon.
When will your teeth be aligned?
Traditional braces move your teeth in four distinct stages:
- working phase
- finishing or detaliling
So while your teeth may be aligned (or “straight”), they’re far from perfect. Your doctor will still need to level them, broaden your arches, close or open up spaces, and fine-tune the results. The average duration of orthodontic treatment is 18 to 24 months.
You can expect your teeth to be aligned about 6 months into the treatment, and while you may still have a year or more to go, having straight teeth really helps boost morale.
Aligners can work a little faster because they act in a targeted way, so you may see results even sooner than 6 months. But that’s only if you wear them diligently and only take them off while eating and brushing.
How to best keep track of your changes
Looking in the mirror every day won’t help you notice changes faster. If you don’t want your memory to trick you, it’s best to take as many pictures as you can.
The best way to notice results is to take pictures 4 weeks apart and compare them side by side. You’ll have a timeline of your dental changes similar to the photos we take in our dental practices.
Here’s exactly how to take dental pictures at home, using just your phone, a tripod or something to support it, and a couple of spoons.
In the end, you should have 6 pictures every month to document your transformation, and enough data to point out anything that might worry you to your orthodontist. Here’s what dental photos look like when taken professionally, using mirrors and retractors:
Obviously, few patients ever take photos from all angles, but if you’re really excited to see how your teeth change over time, don’t miss this opportunity.
For the first 4 to 6 weeks I suggest you focus on taking care of your braces, learning to eat, and striving to master your brushing techniques. Worrying about not seeing changes will only add to the stress. Instead, take the first set of pictures, and forget about them until two months have passed. You’ll be amazed!
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: