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Congratulations! You’ve decided to get your smile designed by the team at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics. If you’re like most of our patients, you’re excited to have a beautiful, healthy smile and one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “How long do braces take?” Or, “How long does it take for Invisalign to work?” Well, every patient’s treatment is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits all timeline for achieving straight teeth. Whether with braces, Invisalign®, 3M Clarity Aligners™ or our in-house TLC Aligners, treatment time always depends on a few factors. Here, we’ll talk about what affects your orthodontic treatment time.

Treatment with Braces

It’s safe to say we all have a picture of what wearing braces is like before we actually start treatment. What comes to mind for you? Do you picture chunky metal brackets, a thick wire and a huge adjustment to you or your child’s lifestyle? Thankfully, today’s modern braces are way more discreet and comfortable than braces past. And you’ll be delighted to know that at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics, braces treatment is high tech and next-level — we’re all about ensuring our patients have the most efficient, painless and enjoyable braces experience possible. 

First, our team takes quick and painless digital images and xrays of your entire mouth with our high-tech digital imaging tools and our iTero digital scanner. Then Dr. Melanie Wang examines your mouth and has a conversation with you about your smile goals. Finally, your San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe orthodontist designs a braces treatment plan unique to you. It’s that simple! And if you’re ready to start right away, we do same-day starts —  you get a jump on your braces treatment immediately after your initial consultation.

You can get started on your braces treatment right away with Dr. Melanie because as your smile engineer, she uses an innovative way to measure, fit and apply your braces that’s fast and completely pain-free. Instead of adhering your brackets one at a time to each tooth, we print a customized mouth tray with our in-house 3D printer that ensures each bracket goes exactly where it should.

Factors that Affect your Braces Treatment Time

Complexity of your treatment

We know everyone wishes 6 month braces were a possibility but in reality, how far your teeth have to move is the biggest factor in how long you have braces. Typically, the more complex issues, the longer your braces will take. If you have relatively mild misalignment of a few teeth, your braces treatment will take less time than, say, treatment for crowded teeth and a misaligned bite. We get it… who doesn’t want a beautiful, straight smile asap? Fast braces sounds enticing. But, in fact, your teeth, gums and jaw actually need sufficient time to make space, shift and settle into your final, designer smile.

Not convinced? Let’s get a bit scientific here about how braces work: the pulling motion of braces stretches ligaments on one side of teeth roots resulting in compressed ligaments on the other side. This stretched ligaments/compressed ligaments situation then signals osteoblasts to create bone tissue to fill the space on the stretched side, while osteoclasts go about breaking down tissue on the compressed side. Once teeth are in their final places, they also need time to settle into their new spaces. Your body’s doing a lot of work to give you straight teeth that will last a lifetime!

Maintaining good oral hygiene

It goes without saying that the health of your teeth depends a lot on how diligently you take care of them. And with braces, oral hygiene can affect how long you have braces — teeth move most efficiently in a healthy mouth. Oral health issues like cavities or gum disease with braces can cause a delay in getting to your final smile reveal. And, in more extreme circumstances, your orthodontist might even have to take your braces off so your oral health issues can receive proper care.

The rule of brushing twice daily and flossing once definitely stands, but with braces, you typically have to brush more often. The team at Dr. Melanie Orthodontics suggests brushing after every meal to make sure plaque doesn’t have a chance to build up around your brackets. Whether you have 6 month braces or 18 months of treatment, taking good care of your oral health is key to adding that extra bit of sparkle to a newly straightened smile. 

How well you stick to the dos and don’ts of wearing braces

Think of yourself as an active participant in getting your gorgeous grin. Yes, your braces are doing their (amazing!) job, but you can help treatment go smoothly by following Dr. Melanie’s guidelines for braces best practices. On top of good oral hygiene, make sure that what you eat won’t damage your braces or teeth. Also, go to all your appointments at the scheduled time. Doing so will help Dr. Melanie make the right adjustments at the right times and allow her to check that your braces are exerting the right force. Do you play sports? If so, wear a mouthguard. Lastly, establish braces-friendly eating habits that — bonus! — will also improve your overall health (say “see you later” to candy and chips)!

dr Melanie with braces teen patient

Treatment with Clear Aligners

You’re most likely familiar with clear aligners: they’re customized, BPA-free plastic trays that you wear on your teeth and swap out throughout treatment as your teeth gradually shift into your final smile. Your orthodontist plans your treatment digitally, with every tooth movement mapped on the computer so you can see what your progress will look like from beginning to end. We have to say, clear aligner treatment is a pretty fun process and in recent years, we’ve seen a definite uptick in their popularity. They’re nearly invisible, fairly low maintenance and don’t require you to change what you eat like you do with braces. 

At Dr. Melanie Orthodontics, we offer Invisalign/Invisalign Teen, 3M Clarity and our in-house brand, TLC Aligners. Why so many options? Well, the most amazing results come from treatment plans precisely suited to your smile needs, lifestyle and budget so the more options, the better we can customize your plan! Case in point: if you want the discreet look of clear aligners but have more complex misalignment, you’re in luck: Dr. Melanie pioneered a hybrid treatment that includes both 3M Clarity Aligners and braces.

So how long does Invisalign take? Or 3M Clarity Aligners and TLC Aligners? Just like braces, figuring out clear aligner treatment time starts with how severe or complex your misalignment. And since clear aligners are custom-designed to match each patient’s individual smile needs, every patient’s timeline is different. For most of our patients, the shortest Invisalign time is less than a year, and the longest time up to two years. Now, if you’re deciding between Invisalign and braces, you might be wondering, “Does Invisalign work faster than braces?” Simply put, yes, because Invisalign is often for milder cases that take a shorter amount of time. But also consider these other factors that affect clear aligner treatment time.

Factors that Affect your Aligners Treatment Time

Wearing your clear aligners 22 hours a day

Number one rule of staying on track with your treatment time? Wear your clear aligners for no less than 22 hours a day. You should only take your aligners out for eating, when drinking anything other than water, brushing and flossing your teeth and cleaning them. 

Not losing your clear aligners

We understand: life happens, and at some point during your clear aligner treatment, you might lose or misplace an aligner. Our advice? Call us right away so we can suggest how you should move forward. We might advise you to go back to your previous set or skip ahead to the next ones. In any case, losing clear aligners can delay your progress, so be sure to store your aligners in their case when you’re not wearing them.

Following doctor’s orders

So you’re into the swing of things with your clear aligner routine. Keep at it! Brush and floss as thoroughly as ever, switch out your aligners at the prescribed times and wear them for 22 hours a day. Keep tabs on your oral health with twice yearly visits to the dentist. And check-ins with Dr. Melanie? Since there’s only a few of them (only every 6-8 weeks) they should be easy to keep track of! What’s even more helpful is using Grin, a new remote monitoring system we’re offering with all clear aligner treatments. With the Grin app, your phone and the special scope attachment, you can take images of your teeth at your scheduled check in times from anywhere and send them to us through the app. Dr. Melanie then looks at them and messages you back. It’s simple and super convenient. 

Promises, Promises: Be Wary of Super Fast Treatments

All this talk about how long Invisalign takes and how long braces take brings us to something many of our patients have asked about: subscription, at-home clear aligner systems and fast braces. You know the ones — mail-order clear aligners that focus on quick results and saying they’re equivalent to treatment that comes with orthodontist oversight. Spoiler alert: most orthodontists and dental professionals do not recommend these. At best, your smile outcome with these do-it-yourself treatments is ok… for a time. Worst case scenario, you do damage to your teeth that takes years for an orthodontist to correct. 

And fast braces? Treatments like Six Month Smiles® have popularized super speedy braces. But consider this before you sign on the dotted line: Six Month Smiles is a limited treatment, focusing on the upper teeth that show when you smile and doesn’t correct bite issues. And just like many other fast treatments, Six Month Smiles is supervised by dentists, not orthodontic specialists who have training and experience with the alignment of your face, jaw and teeth. A trusted option is our TLC Aligners, which are designed for limited treatment and minor corrections. Your progress can be fine-tuned along the way since we produce TLC aligners in-house and most importantly, you’re sure to get the smile you want safely and with orthodontic oversight.

Ready to Start Clear Aligners or Braces?

Now that you’ve got a handle on how long clear aligners and braces take, we’re here to help you get the ball rolling on a beautiful, designer smile. Contact us today to get started!

young girl holding dr Melanie orthodontics bottles

Dr. Melanie

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