6 questions to ask your orthodontist before straightening your teeth



orthodontist talking to a patient

A bright smile with beautiful teeth can be as energizing as a sunny day—and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s incredible how confident and attractive you can feel with straight teeth in comparison to life pre-teeth-straightening.

If you’re considering orthodontic treatment to improve your smile, congrats! That means you’re taking the first step toward getting the straight smile you deserve. But before you book your first appointment, it's important to know the right questions to ask when you first see your provider. Use these six questions to get the information you need to make an informed decision about your unique smile journey.

What are my options for straightening my teeth?

There are several options available to straighten your teeth, so you’ll want to talk through each option with your provider. That said, it’s always good to know the basics:

  • Metal braces: Traditional braces that are visible.
  • Ceramic braces: Uses the same technology as metal braces, but the brackets are a whitish color and slightly less noticeable.
  • Lingual braces: Metal braces that are fixed to the back of your teeth, so they are less noticeable from the outside.
  • Invisalign® aligners: Clear, removable aligners made with pliable SmartTrack™ material, which straighten your teeth in stages as you wear each sequential set of aligners.

Traditional metal braces are the most common type of braces, but they're not your only option. Many people are looking for alternative options to braces, since they are more visible, can be more painful1, and time-consuming than many other options.

If you're looking for a more subtle way to straighten your teeth, Invisalign aligners might be the right choice for you. Invisalign treatment uses a series of clear aligners that are virtually invisible when worn. They're also removable, so once you pop them out, you can eat whatever you want, and brush and floss your teeth as usual.

How long will it take to straighten my teeth?

Everyone wants to have their new smile as soon as possible, but it's important to know that treatment time varies depending on the severity of your case and the method you use.

For example, traditional metal braces generally take between 12 and 36 months2 to work. But if you opt for Invisalign treatment, treatment time can be as little as six months3 for adults with mild cases, and you should start seeing results within the first few weeks. Invisalign aligners’ cutting-edge technology also means the Invisalign aligners now have more predictability4 in treatment time and outcome at every step of the way.

No matter which option you choose, having realistic expectations is key: Teeth straightening is not an overnight process, but the results are long-term with proper retention and completely worth the commitment. 

Where can I see results with teeth that look like mine?

Once you’ve decided on your teeth-straightening method, ask your orthodontist for some before-and-after photos of cases that started out similar to yours. In other words, if you have crooked front teeth, ask to see how other patients that began with crooked front teeth looked after they finished treatment. This will give you an idea of what your smile could look like at the end of the teeth straightening treatment and help you better understand the process.

If you choose Invisalign treatment, your orthodontist will be able to show you a digital 3D simulation of what your new smile is projected to look like after treatment—we swear, it’s even cooler than it sounds. Invisalign® Outcome Simulator Pro uses an advanced iTero™ scanner to generate a simulation of your new smile, so you’ll be able to envision the predicted result before you even begin treatment. Depending on the iTero model your provider has in the office, your provider might even be able to tell you more about your oral health based on your scan.



Girl holding tennis racquet

Will straightening my teeth interrupt my life?

Many people want to know if they will need to make changes in their eating, hygiene, or exercise habits while getting their teeth straightened. The answer really depends on what method you choose to straighten your teeth.

If you choose metal braces, you will need to be careful about what you eat and drink, as sugary and sticky foods can damage the brackets and wires of your braces5. You will also need to be extra careful when brushing your teeth, so you don’t damage your braces.

If you opt for Invisalign aligners on the other hand, you won’t experience those same restrictions: You can eat whatever you want, and brush and floss your teeth after taking out your aligners. Invisalign aligners are removable, so you can take them out whenever you need to eat or brush your teeth.

Invisalign treatment is also a great choice for people who play sports, as there is no risk of braces wires getting damaged or causing injury since Invisalign treatment has no metal wires or brackets and the aligners can be removed when you’re playing sports.

How often will I need to visit the orthodontist?

How often you visit your orthodontist while getting your teeth straightened will also depend on the method you choose to straighten your teeth.

If you have metal braces, you may need to visit your orthodontist as often as every three to four weeks6 for adjustments. During each visit, your orthodontist will likely tighten your braces to help your teeth move into their correct position. The process of tightening your braces usually involves tightening or changing the springs, wires, or elastic bands7 to increase the tautness needed to straighten your teeth.

If you have Invisalign aligners, on the other hand, you will only need to visit your orthodontist according to your doctor’s instructions which often can be as little as every six to twelve weeks. You may also be able to do some appointments virtually with the Invisalign® Virtual Care and Virtual Appointment tools, which allows doctors to virtually monitor your treatment between in-office visits, by reviewing photos that you submit through the My Invisalign™ app.

It's also worth noting that if you choose Invisalign treatment, your orthodontist will be with you at every stage of your smile journey. When it’s something as permanent and visible as your teeth, you should always have a professional at your side.

Girl holding Invisalign aligner

Am I too old or young to get my teeth straightened? 

People as young as 6 can get their teeth straightened. Invisalign offers Invisalign First™ for kids ages 6 to 10, so they can get a head start towards a straighter smile, even while they still have some baby teeth.

As an adult, you will also probably want to consider the visibility of your teeth straightening solution. The look of metal braces harken back to the days of high school, so many adults opt for Invisalign clear aligners, so they can keep their smile journey as private as they please.

Now, you’re ready to head to the orthodontist.

Straightening your teeth has several wonderful benefits, from its effects on your oral health8 to boosting your confidence every day; it really can change your life. If you're thinking about getting your teeth straightened, be sure to ask your orthodontist these six important questions first. 

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  1. Invisalign U.S. teenager patients (N:73) rated pain score of 6.1 vs U.S. traditional metal braces teenager patients (N:76) rated pain score of 5.1 where 1 is extremely painful and 9 not at all painful. : In a study by Miller et al, with adults measuring pain in the first week of treatment.  Kevin Miller et al.“A comparison of treatment impacts between Invisalign aligner and fixed appliance therapy during the first week of treatment.”American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.Volume 131, Issue 3, pp. 302. e1-302.e9, March 2007.
  2. Silver, N. (2021, January 11) How Long Do Braces Take? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-do-braces-take
  3. Based on mild to moderate malocclusion (defined as crowding and spacing up to 6mm, and overjet and overbite up to 6mm and assuming one week wear), treatment times vary depending on invisalign product type, wear time, case complexity and must be determined by your doctor. Data on file at Align Technology, as of September 9, 2020
  4. Compared to Invisalign aligners previously made from single-layer (EX30) material.
  5. Watson, S. (2022, May 3). Can I Eat Candy with Braces? VeryWell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/can-i-eat-candy-with-braces-1059334
  6. Moresca, R. (2018, November). Orthodontic treatment time: can it be shortened? National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340199/
  7. O’Keef Osborne, C. (2019,  March 8). Do Braces Hurt? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/do-braces-hurt#tightening
  8. Saha, S. (2023, March 14). Why Straight Teeth Are Important For Your Health. Healthnews. https://healthnews.com/family-health/dental-and-oral-health/why-straight-teeth-are-important-for-your-health/

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website are for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek the advice of your health care provider with any questions you may have regarding any dental or medical-related condition and never disregard or delay seeking such advice because of something you have read on this website.