How Long Do Braces Take to Get On?


Your dentist and parents may have talked about sending you to an orthodontist because you need braces. You're worried because you don't know how long everything takes, how long it takes for the orthodontist to put the braces on, how long you'll have to wear them and how much your mouth might hurt.


  • Orthodontic braces are brackets, arch wires and ligating donuts that are put on teeth that are misaligned. The bracket is either a ceramic or a metal tool glued onto a tooth--one per tooth so the arch wire has a place to stay while it is working to move your teeth. The band is a metal ring placed on your tooth to hold other parts of your braces. The arch wire is a metal wire attached to the brackets on all of your teeth.

    The orthodontic chain is a tiny plastic chain that is used to hold your arch wire and move your teeth. The ligating donut is a tiny plastic band that is placed over the arch wire on each bracket. A retainer is the device the orthodontist makes from a mold immediately after your braces are removed. This device helps keep your teeth in their new placement.


  • After you have been referred to an orthodontist by your family dentist, the orthodontist will take X-rays of your teeth. She will also make a mold of your teeth so she can get a 3-D image of where your teeth are as she is developing a treatment plan for you. You will first have separators placed in between your teeth--these are tiny rubber "O" rings the orthodontist uses to make a little more space so she can put your brackets on your teeth. You'll wear these for one week before you have your first set of brackets put on your teeth.

    Some orthodontists put one set of brackets on their patients' teeth first, then at another appointment, she will put the second set of brackets on. After the brackets have been glued to your teeth, the orthodontist will insert the arch wire that does the actual mechanical work of moving your teeth.

Time Required

  • You will spend, on average, about two hours sitting in the orthodontist's chair to get a set of brackets glued onto your teeth. Your orthodontist has worked hard to figure out the exact placement of each bracket for each tooth. His assistants will painstakingly place each bracket and have the orthodontist check himself to make sure that each bracket is placed right. If a bracket is placed too high or too low, it may rotate your tooth in a way the orthodontist does not want even as it is moving that tooth in the direction the orthodontist wants.

    After each bracket has been correctly placed and glued into place, the orthodontist will place the arch wire and ligating donuts, or he will have his assistants do this work. Because your orthodontist wants your teeth aligned correctly, he is going to take his time making sure the work he and his assistants do is right the first time.


  • You won't experience any pain when the orthodontist puts your braces on. Once she has put the arch wire and ligating donuts on, you will begin to feel some soreness because the arch wire is very strong and will begin to exert pressure on your teeth right away. If you are uncomfortable, you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen every four to six hours to help. You should avoid chewy and crunchy foods--partly because you may be in pain and partly so you don't break the brackets. Eat softer foods until you feel better.

Time Frame

  • The length of time you wear your braces depends on how badly misaligned your teeth are and how compliant you are with your treatment. If your teeth are significantly out of alignment or if you have additional orthodontic problems, your treatment may take longer.

    If you don't wear your elastics or any prescribed headgear as your orthodontist orders, this will lengthen your treatment time as well. The elastics (small rubber bands) are used to help move one set of teeth back and the other set of teeth forward.

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  • Photo Credit "gimme my cake now!" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: lanuiop (Drew Herron) under the Creative Commons Attribution license. "Tongue." is Copyrighted by Flickr user: terin. (Terin Barrios) under the Creative Commons Attribution license. "Free Awesome Girl With Braces Close Up Creative Commons" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Pink Sherbet Photography (D. Sharon Pruitt) under the Creative Commons Attribution license. "Free Happy Girl With Braces Creative Commons" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Pink Sherbet Photography (D. Sharon Pruitt) under the Creative Commons Attribution license. "P9101792.JPG" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Art Comments (Art Comments) under the Creative Commons Attribution license. "Teeth, a poem" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Shakespearesmonkey (Victor Keegan) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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