What is short-term orthodontics?

Braces can achieve dramatic and sometimes life-changing transformations. They’re not, however, a ‘quick fix’. Conventional orthodontic treatment with fixed braces typically takes 12-18 months, sometimes longer. This involves straightening your front and back teeth and making sure they bite together correctly.

For some, the prospect of a year or more in obtrusive braces can be disconcerting. Particularly when comparing braces to quicker (albeit more destructive) treatments such as veneers. While it’s true the result of orthodontic treatment is highly desirable, the journey isn’t always so appealing.

‘Invisible’ braces

To address this barrier to treatment, braces have evolved to become more inconspicuous; so inconspicuous in fact that some appliances are virtually invisible. Lingual braces, for example, are fixed behind your teeth, making them incredibly discreet.

‘Faster’ braces

Braces have also (supposedly) got faster and there’s a growing demand for short-term orthodontic treatments, which claim to straighten teeth in a matter of months. These appliances include tooth-coloured fixed braces; clear aligners; and sectional lingual braces (which are attached behind the front six or eight teeth).

Unfortunately, there has undoubtedly been some miscommunication to patients surrounding short-term orthodontic treatment, and some of the advertising is wholly misleading. Many of these braces don’t move teeth any faster than traditional fixed braces. Speed of tooth movement is dictated by biological factors – not braces. They simply work quicker because they’re doing much less. Instead of straightening your front and back teeth – and correcting your bite – they’re simply aligning your front teeth.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and short-term braces can be a good choice if you’re only concerned about crooked or crowded front teeth. It’s important to consider your options, though, and appreciate the limitations of these appliances.

Are short-term braces right for you?

If you are thinking about short-term orthodontics, we recommend seeing a specialist orthodontist who also offers conventional treatment for a consultation. They’ll be able to explain the pros and cons of each option and help you to choose the brace that will give you the best long-term result, i.e. provide you a bespoke solution rather than just offering a product.

Your bite may not seem like a priority initially. However, teeth that don’t bite together properly can cause problems with eating and even jaw pain and headaches in some cases. Potentially your bite could get worse following treatment of just your front teeth. It’s also important to be aware that not everyone is suitable for short-term orthodontic treatment, particularly those with complex problems.

Sometimes short-term orthodontic treatment needs to be combined with restorative treatments such as bonding, contouring and veneers to get a good result. With conventional braces, there is more scope for refining the position of your teeth, avoiding the need for further treatments.

In recent years legal action associated with short-term orthodontic treatment has increased. This is mainly due to dentists treating problems that are beyond the scope of their skill and not having the experience to troubleshoot effectively.

Ultimately, short-term orthodontics has its place, and it’s usually always a better option than veneers for straightening teeth. Just make sure you find an experienced clinician, and you understand all of the risks and limitations associated with your treatment.

For more help and advice on short-term orthodontic treatment, find your local BLOS member.