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Let me guess, you just got your first wire changed and have endured pain like no other, so now you’re wondering how many more wire changes do you need with your braces. Jokes aside, not all wire changes need to be painful, and we don’t actually change wires nearly as much as patients may think.
I don’t get asked this question a lot, but I do see it online all the time, and patients are genuinely worried about their wires and how many they need to go through. So let me share my experience with you, and hopefully ease your mind about the whole thing.
In a nutshell, you should expect 3 to 6 wire changes throughout your orthodontic treatment. Some orthodontists use only 3-4 wires, others use more, but changing your wire only 4 times doesn’t mean you’ll only go to 4 appointments. It just means we leave the wires in for longer.
Allow me to explain how wire changes work:
Why change braces wires?
When getting braces, you’ll notice a thin wire that runs through the slot of all your braces, both on your top and bottom teeth. We start off with a round, thin, flexible wire, and if your teeth are crooked, your wire will be crooked too.
Gradually, that thin wire will work its magic by applying gentle pressure and your teeth will become straighter – but not all the way! A thin, flexible wire doesn’t have the ability to complete the treatment in one fell swoop.
Generally, thin round wires are very limited in what they can do, so we need to advance to a thicker, stiffer wire. And so, we repeat this process a couple of times until all your teeth are super-straight. Lastly, all we have left to do is close the gaps, settle your bite and work on any minor corrections we might need.
If you’re curious about the specifics of how wires work, we can get a bit more technical:
What type of wires we use in the office
We use different types of wire materials and shapes according to what treatment stage we’re in. Most orthodontists will only use NiTi and stainless steel, but we have a couple more options:
Aside from material, wires also come in two main categories according to their cross-section:
Lastly, wires come in different sizes which indicate how thick (or strong) they are:
- Popular round wire sizes are: 014, 016, 018
- Popular rectangular wire sizes are: 16×22, 17×25, 19×25, 20×20
What’s the most usual wire sequence
Every patient’s treatment plan is unique, and the wire sequence used in the office may vary based on the individual’s needs. However, in my practice, I typically follow the wire changing sequence outlined below:
Do braces wires change every month?
Each type of wire is held in place for a minimum of 3 months, and the stiffer wires will stay in for even longer. Keep in mind that this sequence I described is just one of many techniques out there, and some orthodontist may prefer to use entirely different sizes, types and numbers of wires.
As you can tell, 3-4 wires over the course of 12 to 24 months of treatment is not a lot. This means your orthodontist will not change your wire every single time you go for an appointment every 4 to 8 weeks.
Wires still have plenty of residual pressure that they apply even when the teeth appear straight, so it’s best to leave them in longer, and change them less frequently.
So, while we’re waiting for the wires to do their thing, there are still plenty of other things we can do:
- Take the wire out, rinse it, help it regain its shape and put it back in;
- Change the elastic ties;
- Change the powerchains;
- Replace any broken brackets;
- Use rubber bands.
Lastly, I want to focus on a few situations that might prolong orthodontic treatment, or that might even cause you to go back one wire size.
Why you may get some extra wires
There are a few reasons why you may find yourself needing some extra wires added to your braces treatment.
Firstly, if one of your brackets breaks, this can cause your teeth to shift in as little as a few weeks, and your orthodontist may need to replace the broken bracket and put you on a smaller wire to prevent further shifting. This is why it’s so important to see your orthodontist as soon as you notice that a bracket is broken.
Secondly, wires can break on their own, or bend out of shape, which will also require a replacement, and sometimes your orthodontist may need to switch to a smaller wire.
Finally, your orthodontist may need to reposition some brackets because it’s hard to get the positioning perfect when the teeth are crooked, and this will also require a smaller wire to be used. So, don’t worry if you find yourself with some extra wires in your treatment, it’s all part of the process.
To summarize, orthodontic wires play a crucial role in moving your teeth to their correct positions. The wire changing process is not as frequent as patients may think, and it usually involves 3-6 wire changes throughout the treatment. Gradual wire changes are necessary because a thin wire can’t complete the treatment by itself, and moving straight to a thick wire would cause pain and the braces to break.
As always, trust that your orthodontist knows what’s best for you, and if you’re ever curious about these technicalities, just ask. I’m sure most orthos are more than happy to explain.
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: