From the day your braces go on, you’re probably looking forward to that wonderful day when they come off. Your orthodontist has developed a custom orthodontic treatment plan just for you, and has probably let you know about how much time it will take before your braces come off.

However, if you’ve been wearing your braces for longer than the expected time, that isn’t really unusual, and can usually be attributed to one of several reason:

  • You haven’t been going to your orthodontist appointments regularly. At each visit, your orthodontist is checking on your progress and making any changes to continue your treatment, including moving the wires that guide your teeth into the correct position. If the staff should be checking on your teeth every four weeks and you’re only coming in every 10 weeks, then your teeth aren’t going to be moving toward the right position—which will take longer to correct.
  • Your teeth are moving more slowly than expected. Everyone is different—some babies sprout teeth at three months, and others don’t have their teeth until nine months. In the same way, your teeth may be moving more slowly than it would normally take during orthodontic treatment. This will cause your treatment will take longer.
  • Poor oral hygiene. If you don’t keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, you’re not creating the environment that you need for your teeth to move. Plaque that builds up on teeth and causes gums to swell can also cause problems that will interrupt your treatment plan.

How to Make Sure Your Treatment Stays on Track

  • Go to your orthodontist every four to six weeks, or as required by his staff. Don’t skip appointments or space them out in any way than what is prescribed by his or her office.
  • Keep your teeth and gums clean. Be sure to brush and floss two or three times a day. Food will become trapped in your braces, and if it’s not cleaned up using a toothbrush, it can produce plaque, which can cause cavities.
  • Use a mouth guard when needed. If you play contact sports, such as soccer or football, you should always wear a mouth guard to protect your braces. If your braces are hit by a ball or another person, it can injure your mouth.

Your orthodontist will let you know how your treatment is coming along, and he or she will have a good idea about when your braces will come off once they see how you are responding to the treatment. If you have questions, let them know!