Have you seen your dentist advertising something called “Six Month Braces”, Six Month Smiles”, or something similar? Sounds too good to be true right? Let’s take a look at what you can expect with this type of treatment.
Six Month Smiles and similar systems are a set of orthodontic treatment systems designed specifically for use by general dentists. The goal with these types of systems are to align your front teeth to give you a better smile without changing anything with the back teeth. This is what allows the treatment time to be so short (usually 6 to 9 months on average). The procedure involves your dentist placing clear brackets on your teeth and primarily using white coated nickel-titanium wires to level and align your teeth.
Most orthodontists aren’t terribly happy with general dentists doing more orthodontics. To understand why this is you’ve got to understand how dentists and orthodontists are trained. When I was in dental school, almost no time was spent on orthodontics. The basic speech we got was that if a patient needs braces, you should send them to an orthodontist and not try to do it yourself. Orthodontists on the other hand are taught to treat almost every single case to perfection, no matter how long that process takes. There are very specific guidelines on what is considered a “perfect” case and that is what they shoot for. Orthodontists without fail are some of the smartest people who graduated from dental school. The top 4 people in my class all went on to become orthodontists. Unfortunately, a lot of what comes with that can be a rigid and perfectionist mindset, which is great for certain things and not so great for others.
Here’s my thought on it. Most adult patients don’t want absolute perfection of all teeth, front and back. They want crowded teeth to not be crowded and they want spaces closed. They want a nice smile. They don’t want to wear braces forever. They don’t want to have to mortgage their house to pay for it. There are some exceptions to this. Some adults have back teeth that don’t come together well, teeth that are tipped over, or really crowded or spaced out teeth. These cases should absolutely be treated by an orthodontist.
Six Month Smiles and Six Month Braces work great for their intended purpose. They do a great job at getting a good cosmetic result in a short time frame. The downside with these systems is that the general dentists who use them usually don’t have nearly as much orthodontic experience as what you’d get with an orthodontist. If something goes wrong the case ends up being more complicated, the dentist doesn’t have the same tool bag to fix it that an orthodontist does.
So to recap here are the major pros and cons of doing Six Month Smiles…
Pros of Six Month Smiles
- Short treatment time
- Less costly (on average)
- Good cosmetic result
Cons of Six Month Smiles
- Usually not as good of a result as you could get with an orthodontist
- Can’t be used to treat all types of cases
- Problems that occur aren’t always able to be dealt with by the dentist
If you’re considering doing Six Month Smiles, figure out what your goals are for straightening your teeth before you make a final decision. There isn’t just one right answer. Figure out what works best for you based on the all the pros and cons.