“How long do you need to wear braces?” is definitely one of the most frequently asked questions about braces and orthodontic treatment.
Unfortunately, we can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer. There are lots of individual factors that affect the duration of treatment with braces. But, if you really want some numbers, we’ll say that the average length of time that people wear braces is about 16 to 18 months; most people wear them for somewhere between 1 to 2 years. Shorter use is rare (unless you qualify for SPEED braces, which only need to be worn for around 6 months), and sometimes people need braces for more than 2 years. Adults are more likely than children to need braces longer—even up to 3 years.
Also, do keep in mind that you’ll need to use a fixed or removable retainer after your braces come off.
Factors that Affect How Long You Need Braces
Here are some of the important considerations that play into how long any given person will need to wear their braces:
- The severity of the bite problem (including factors like how much space is available for moving teeth, how far teeth need to move, how much the jaw needs to be realigned, etc.)
- The age and developmental stage of the patient
- Whether structural problems with the jaw or palate are being addressed, and their severity
- The type of braces being worn
- How well instructions for proper use are followed if there are removable elements, such as with clear aligners or removable bands
- Which other procedures or orthodontic devices are being used in conjunction with the braces (if any), and how well the patient follows the instructions for use
- How well the braces are maintained (for example, if you have broken or missing brackets because you ate hard candy you weren’t supposed to eat, and don’t have this fixed promptly, it can extend the time needed for treatment)
- The patient’s oral health (including the teeth, gums, and supporting bone)
- The patient’s oral hygiene
Finding Out How Long You’ll Need Braces
You’ll need to have an initial examination in person so that your orthodontist can give you a reliable estimate for how long you’ll need to wear braces (if that is, in fact, the treatment decided upon). The appointment will include a thorough oral and facial examination to assess what’s going on. Often, there’s some imaging involved, such as X-rays, photographs, cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans, and/or digital impressions. Your orthodontist will also review dental records, and will discuss your preferences to help ascertain which type of treatment(s) will be used.