How Often Do Braces Need to be Tightened After Placement?
It’s one of the top questions people have at their initial consultation appointment: Once I get my braces on, how often do I need to come in to get them tightened?
I think people who haven’t had treatments have an awful visual of orthodontic technicians cranking on their braces and using metal lassos to tighten their teeth.
Rest assured, it’s nothing like that.
So, what happens when we put your braces on? We initially put a light wire in, which can be anywhere from 12 to 16 thousandths of an inch. It’s made out of a material developed by NASA, used in the space program. These wires are flexible and have shape memories. So, you put them in and they bend, twist, and turn to the shape and position of your teeth. They’ll slowly bring your teeth to the ideal position. The nice thing about these wires is they last for a long time while continuing to move your teeth for many weeks.
The duration of your appointments depends on what your orthodontist is trying to do, the materials he’s using, and your situation. Typically, in most offices, you have longer periods between appointments in the beginning. I would say the range is six to 10 or 11 weeks. The reason those are longer is you’re wearing flexible wires that move your teeth the entire time.
Patients often come in every once in a while and say, “Well, my teeth stopped hurting after the first few days,” or, “I’ve noticed my teeth moving for a few weeks, but I didn’t notice them moving for the last couple of weeks.” Then, they want to come in more often because they want to speed things up. There are a couple reasons we don’t allow that. One, usually the teeth are moving. They may not be moving as fast as they did initially, but they do continue to move towards the end of the appointment. And, two, the tooth moves through the bone. Imagine, you have two sides of “builders” on each tooth. On the side the tooth is being pulled towards, bone is taken away. Imagine someone with a pick axe, “a builder,” chipping away at your bone causing a reaction that takes bone away from the tooth. On the other side, the tooth moves into position, but you have an empty space where there’s no bone. We want to give the body time to heal and to build bone back into that space. And that will happen, but often that’s the second part of the appointment time. So, your tooth will move for the first part of the appointment, and the second part is about healing your face. We could get you in sooner and continue to move the tooth, but then you run the risk of having damage to the bone and it not healing properly.
So, patients often wonder, “Well, my tooth stopped moving two weeks ago, why not tighten it up again?” Now, when we get closer to the end of treatment, we will often see patients more often because we do minor movements and tweaks to get things perfect. We use a different wire that’s not quite as flexible for many different reasons. But, if we want to work on the bite and fixing the way the back teeth fit together, you’ll wear a heavier, less flexible wire to keep the teeth anchored together so we can move the teeth solidly. It’s often beneficial to see people more frequently at that point. But, again, there’s a wide range depending on what’s done. Usually the rule of thumb is anywhere from six to 10 weeks at the beginning. At the end of treatments, it can range anywhere from three to five weeks as your orthodontist finishes detailing, ensuring your smile is beautiful and as perfect as possible. Contact us for more details.
Beecroft Orthodontics, 10472 Georgetown Dr. Fredericksburg, Virginia
Braces: Duration of Orthodontic Appointments