Length of Treatment with Braces
In orthodontics a distinction is made between active treatment – i.e. when the teeth are actually being moved by the brace – and the retention phase where the teeth are just being held in their new position.
The duration of the active treatment phase depends on what needs to be done: two crooked teeth can be straightened in three months, whilst a complete course of active treatment can normally take up to two years and, in isolated cases, even longer. Only in a few exceptional cases should the duration of active treatment exceed two years, provided that it has been planned properly. In a modern, well-organised practice for children and adolescents an average treatment time of around eighteen months is normally achievable, i.e. a little more than a year and a half. The average length of treatment across Germany is between 3 and 4 years – i.e. almost twice as long as in our practice. This is mainly due to the widespread use of pointless and ineffective removable braces. Another reason is that treatment is often started much too early when children are still at primary school. However, the scientifically accepted norm is not to start treatment until children have developed their second teeth – i.e. at the age of 10 or 12.
A reasonable average treatment time in adults for an aesthetic procedure involving the front teeth is 8 months, i.e. significantly less than a year. But even here, the usual length of treatment in Germany is unfortunately often significantly longer. Extensive treatment involving correction of the bite, extraction of teeth or other complicated procedures normally takes an average of 18 – 24 months, provided that the treatment has been planned sensibly.
The length of the retention phase of treatment also varies considerably. However, keeping the teeth in position permanently by wearing a retainer attached to the inside of the front teeth has shown itself to be the best method.
There are two reasons why it is important to try to achieve the shortest possible length of treatment for our patients: firstly, orthodontic treatment carries certain risks, in particular calcification of the teeth and damage to the roots. If the length of treatment is kept short, both of these risks can be minimised. Secondly, orthodontic treatment is always elective – the patient decides freely after consulting with the orthodontist. The treatment brings a certain gain to the patient of course but the decision can also become a burden. We try to reduce this burden to an absolute minimum by keeping our treatment as short as possible. So the length of treatment should always be a key part of the consultation and should be accurately specified in advance to the nearest month.