What Are the 3 Stages of Orthodontic Treatment?

For the millions of people born with misaligned teeth, orthodontic treatment holds the key to a perfect smile. Every year, countless patients seek out orthodontic work to correct issues like overlapping teeth, gaps, overbites, underbites, cross bites, and more. By correcting these problems, patients not only improve their outward appearance, but they often report higher self-confidence and better oral health after treatment as well. 

To treat alignment issues, today’s orthodontists have a broad range of tools at their disposal, including:

Regardless of what issue is being corrected or which treatment method is being used, orthodontic work can be broken down into 3 distinct stages: planning, active treatment, and retention. 

If you’re considering orthodontic work, understanding the 3 stages of orthodontic treatment can help you know what to expect on your journey toward a healthier, more beautiful smile. 

Stage 1 of Orthodontic Treatment: Planning

Orthodontic treatment begins with a visit to the orthodontist’s office. During your initial appointment, your orthodontist will diagnose the issues affecting your smile and discuss your treatment options. 

Today, orthodontists primarily use two treatments to correct alignment problems: traditional braces and Invisalign clear aligners. In the past, most patients only qualified for braces, as clear aligners were only able to correct mild alignment issues. However, thanks to recent technological advancements, orthodontists like BHO’s own Dr. Monica Madan can use Invisalign to treat even severe problems. 

To properly diagnose issues and create a well-developed treatment plan, your orthodontist will:

  1. Perform a medical evaluation to ensure that you are healthy enough for orthodontic work
  2. Examine and X-ray your mouth to identify any alignment problems and other oral health concerns
  3. Create a digital model using a 3-D scanner, the modern alternative to plaster bite impressions
  4. Form a patient-specific treatment plan with the aid of computer-generated images

After performing these steps, you and your orthodontist will be able to discuss which treatment approaches will be most successful. Once you have agreed on a plan, you are ready for the next stage—active treatment. 

Stage 2 of Orthodontic Treatment: Active Treatment

Active treatment refers to the period when your braces or clear aligners are actively moving your teeth. Depending on factors such as misalignment type, misalignment severity, and which treatment approach your orthodontist is using, active treatment will typically take 12-30 months to complete. However, with accelerated orthodontics, this time can be significantly reduced.

If you opt for fixed braces, you will need to visit the orthodontist every 4-6 weeks for regular adjustments. These adjustments ensure that the braces are providing continual pressure on the proper areas. Properly-applied pressure allows the braces to gradually move teeth into perfect positions over time. 

Invisalign patients require fewer visits to the orthodontist during treatment. Invisalign clear aligners come in bulk sets, with patients wearing each aligner for a week or two before moving on to the next one. As long as patients wear each aligner for 20-22 hours a day, treatment can progress without interruption. 

Stage 3 of Orthodontic Treatment: Retention

The last of the 3 stages of orthodontic treatment, the retention stage revolves around keeping your realignment results intact. After all, once you have gone through treatment, you don’t want to lose your perfect smile!

Retention begins after your orthodontist has removed your braces or confirmed that aligner treatment is complete. To ensure that teeth won’t move back to their original positions, most orthodontists will create a removable retainer that will keep teeth from shifting. This retainer will help stabilize the realigned teeth and allow the jawbone to reform around them. Permanent retainers are also an option for qualifying patients and eliminate the need to wear a removable device. 

The length of the retention stage varies amongst patients and is directed on a case-by-case basis. 

Ready to Begin the 3 Stages of Orthodontic Treatment? 

Typically, over the course of 12-30 months, orthodontic patients undergo treatment in three distinct stages. If you are ready to begin the planning stage of your orthodontic work, it’s important to first find an orthodontist you can trust throughout the entire process. 

At Beverly Hills Orthodontics, Dr. Monica Madan and the BHO team have been correcting mild to severe alignment issues since 2008. Recognized as one of the top Invisalign providers in the country, Beverly Hills Orthodontics offers a range of treatment orthodontic treatments for:

  • Crooked teeth
  • Tooth gaps
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Open bite

From single tooth alignment to full bite corrections, BHO is here to make sure that you have a smile you love.