Dr. Greg Jorgensen
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Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

Does the Six Month Smiles Orthodontic Treatment Actually Work?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on December 27th, 2011

It seems we all want everything faster and cheaper. This is true in electronics, in retail, and even in medicine and dentistry. Recently, a company called Six Month Smiles arrived on the dental scene promising orthodontic treatment that is shorter and less expensive. What is it and does it really work?

Six Month Smiles is literally a “braces in a box” kit provided to general dentists with all of the parts included. To become a Six Month Smiles provider, a dentist merely pays a fee and attends a two-day seminar. With only one class under his belt, he can then submit models and begin providing treatment immediately. Within a couple of weeks, the newly trained dentist receives a kit that contains the braces (which have been positioned on the models by technicians at the Six Month Smiles facility), the wires, the o-rings, and even the adhesive needed to attach the braces to the teeth. At the “braces on” appointment, the brackets are placed using mouthpieces provided by the company and the wires are installed. Patients are then sent away and tooth movement begins.

Can the Six Month Smiles system actually move teeth? Yes, it can. Can it make the front teeth look better? Yes, it can. Is it a substitute for regular braces? In some cases it might be. So what are the pros and cons of Six Month Smiles treatment and is it the right treatment for my teeth?

First of all, I need to reveal my bias. I am a board-certified orthodontist with 20 years’ experience treating the most difficult cases. The Six Month Smiles company does not market to me. They market their service primarily to general dentists who want to add orthodontic services to their practices. I have not taken the Six Month Smile certification course, but I have studied their system and talked to dentists and patients in my community who have used it. More importantly, I have been providing orthodontic treatment for 15 years longer than the Six Month Smiles company has even existed.

Six Month Smiles treatment, just one example of “short term orthodontics,” can straighten crooked teeth. The best cases for such limited treatment are patients with a great bite in the back, mild alignment problems in the front, and either mild crowding or slight spacing between the teeth. The main movement patients will experience after braces are glued to the teeth and the flexible wires inserted is expansion. The front teeth will move forward and outward. If the bite is good in the back and the crowding or spacing is mild, the amount of expansion will be minimal and may actually be beneficial in some patients.

The cases in which “prefabricated” braces will be the least successful are the seemingly simple ones where there is an undetected bite problem, where the upper front teeth do not overlap the lower front ones very much, or patients whose front teeth should not be flared any further. Most of the patients that I have re-treated after their Six Month Smiles experience were unsatisfied because of how flared their front teeth appeared and how their bites felt worse following treatment. Short term orthodontic treatment generally focuses on the front teeth and does not concern itself with how the upper and lower arches come together.

Braces are just a tool. They can move teeth only as well as the doctor using them. Just because the Six Month Smiles company puts the brackets on the models for the dentists who have attended its seminar does not mean that these doctors suddenly know anything more about diagnosis and treatment planning than they did before. Getting braces on the teeth is only the beginning. Knowing what to do at subsequent appointments and how to finish treatment is even more important. Just because I can buy a set of power tools from Sears does not mean that I’m any more of a carpenter afterwards than I was before.

In no way am I trying to suggest that orthodontists are smarter than dentists. There are some dentists who can straighten teeth with the best of us, and some of them are doing so using the Six Month Smile system. The key to the results you’ll receive from any treatment lies in the training, experience, and talent of the doctor providing it.

22 comments so far in response to “Does the Six Month Smiles Orthodontic Treatment Actually Work?”

  1. fabio hirata says:

    Hello Dr. Jorgensen,

    Few minutes ago i watched a webinar of this kind of treatment ” SIX FLASH MONTHS ORTHO SYSTEM” and i got really concern about all of this madness. I am an certified orthodontist in Brazil for 9 years and treated a lot of difficult cases too. Treatments like these are dangerous and deceive patients. We can not accept what is totally wrong and unethical. Our duty is to inform and guide our patients, knowledge is a great tool to achieve awareness. B

    Best Regards from Brazil.

    Dr. Fábio Yamane Hirata

    • There are many ways to skin a cat, but I would like to go to a specialist who has skinned a lot of them and knows all the nasty things that can happen. I have seen a few people whose teeth look better after short-term orthodontics, but the majority have a bigger overbite, more protrusive lips, and are less satisfied than those who got the work done by a real “cat skinner” (a board-certified orthodontist)!

    • Karina says:

      Burbank california, its set up thgourh this program smileschangeslivescom its for people 10 18 who cant afford regular priced braces. plus my insurance wouldnt approve me cause my teeth only have spacing so their not that bad. when they approve you you have to pay 500 and they tell you which dentist to go to

      • One other option you may want to consider is another organization called “Smiles For a Lifetime.” You can search for it online and find a list of participating orthodontists in your area. There is still a rigorous screening policy, but there is no $500 application fee. Good luck!

  2. Rachael says:

    what do you mean by having insurance and if your approved they send you to a dentist and you pay £500??

    • If you or your employer pay for dental insurance there is sometimes a benefit for orthodontic care. If you have auto insurance and have an accident, the insurance company pays for your car to be fixed. If you have orthodontic coverage as part of your dental insurance, it may pay a portion of your treatment fee if it is determined that you need care.

  3. sreya says:

    I wore braces for 11months as i hve to fly away.I had crowded teeth which was treated with no extraction.I still didnot have perfect smile and a lateral teeth half rotated state.is there any inexpensive way to fix this problem(i.e i cannot afford invisalign or braces again)i hve heard of spring hawley retainer.can it correct my teeth

    • Retainers are designed to hold the results of orthodontic treatment. Only very minor movements can be accomplished with Hawley retainers. My experience has not been good trying to move teeth this way and my patients are rarely happy with the final result.

  4. Amy Noskiake says:

    I started the 6 month smile 7 months ago. I have not been very happy with the results. I am in my early 40s and was told this would be a cheaper alternative to invisiligns. My case was very mild and only had minor crowding with the four front bottom teeth. Then on top, I had two teeth just slighlty turned, not very noticable. In 7 months I have seen very little improvement. In fact my bottom teeth were rotated to a different direction supposedly to make room for another tooth. But now they are having problems rotating one tooth back into place. As far as I can see, the crowding problem is still there. I feel like my teeth have just rotated back and forth and there really has not been anything done to create more space for the crowding. I really am unsure on what steps I will take at this point. Maybe I am not giving them enough time. I thought this was a 6 month thing. But its not. It can take up to a year or more for some people. So, it is not a quick remedy from what I am experiencing. I would not recommend them to anyone based on my experience.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Amy. While there are some problems that can be fixed in six months, the majority of orthodontic problems require more time than that. I had over 4,000 hours of intense orthodontic training in my specialty program at the University of Iowa. Learning how to diagnose and treatment plan orthodontic problems is something that can be learned in a one-day, 8 hour course at a hotel. While I’m sure that there have been some decent results obtained with short-term orthodontic systems like the one you mentioned, I fear that the name is misleading in a lot of cases. My advice is to seek the opinion of a qualified orthodontic specialist. He can help you get the treatment you really need for your particular problem.

  5. tammy lynn strickland says:

    I have a bottom tooth that is crowded and would like to have straight bottom teeth to match my top teeth. I have consulted with two orthodontists who would extract one of the nearby bottom teeth and put braces on both top and bottom. I am not comfortable with metal braces at age 52. My dentist feels the 6 month braces would work for me. Dr. Jorgensen, i am hoping you have another recommendation. I have beautiful white teeth with no over jetting, etc. I smile easily and often, and would love the straightening. Vanity at it’s finest! Rush…the Music Hall of Fame overdue.

    • I have a bias here since I am a board certified orthodontist with two years advanced training and over 23 years of private practice. Most primary care dentists offering short-term orthodontics (like 6 month anything) have taken a one-day course. In that day of training they learn how to order a kit and put the braces on. This “do it yourself kit” that makes putting on braces simpler for a dentist who hasn’t done it before. What this training cannot offer is a background in diagnosis, treatment planning, biomechanics, etc. that is covered in a two to three year university residency. Orthodontic treatment is complex and there are a lot of variables to think about (the face, the joints, the bone, the gums, the bite, etc.). I have patients in their 70′s, so you are not too old. If you are concerned about the appearance of metal braces, ask your orthodontist about clear brackets or lingual braces (on the inside). Good luck!

  6. Armen says:

    Hello doctor, I’m 27 years old and have gaps on the top teeth. on top of the gaps the shapes and size are not similar. right canine is shorter than the left, right lateral incisor is much shorter, smaller in size and sharper than the left,and my right central incisor is longer than the left, all have gaps in between. would braces help grow the small teeth out and close the gaps, or would that be done with only cosmetic dentistry? my bottom teeth are fine, no crowding or gaps. I’m thinking about the 6 month braces cause it’s much cheaper (around $3,000-4,000) than traditional braces since I’m unemployed without an income.

    • Armen. Orthodontic treatment can make your teeth more level and close your gaps. I know that money is an issue for you, but I would wait until you can have your work done by a real orthodontist. Typically the training of primary care dentists who provide short term orthodontics like you’ve asked about is no where near the education and experience of an orthodontic specialist. You will probably pay more for a specialist, but you’ll get what you pay for.

  7. lisa says:

    It has been a year since I got my six month smile put on. My dentist keeps jerking me around. I finally got a second opinion from a orthodontist and he said my gums are so bad they should never have been put on. now I am going to have to have major gum surgery. Also my bite is worse and the front tooth I wanted to move never did. They are being taken off this week and I see my new dentist the very next day to start a very long road back. I am just sick over the whole mess. Only a orthodontist should be aloud to mess with your teeth. Also I don’t see wear its cheaper I payed close to 5000.00

    • I’m sorry that you had to go through that Lisa. I’m sure that you were led to believe that the results would not only be just as good as braces, they would be achieved in much less time. Until consumers like you speak out and let everyone know that there is no short cut to a good smile and bite, providers of “short term orthodontics” will continue to rope patients into their practices and in many cases give them results that are less than they’d hoped for. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Good luck with your re-treatment!

  8. Ronnie says:

    I currently have the Six month smile and in the first month I knew I made a mistake. Let me start by saying I really like my dentist and I have received wonderful general care from him, he has been a dentist for over 20 years and comes highly recommended. That being said this is not a one size fits all treatment and that is what it feels like. I do not know one person that has not had their teeth filed to make room for over crowding and that is just the first mistake. My teeth are now so far misaligned that I can barely chew food. I have gone to see a professional and he said he can fix my teeth and now I am praying that there is no root damage. I will find out when I go see him this week to have the brackets put in the right place and the proper wires put in. Take time to check with a orthodontist, braces can be cheaper, one of the selling points of the Six month smile,and they have the ceramic or clear braces, actually they have many different choices. There is no short cut to professional work done buy a quality orthodontist. These are your teeth and you only get one set. Wish me luck.

    • Thank you for sharing Ronnie. As I mentioned in my article, the most important part of orthodontic treatment is the diagnosis and treatment plan. Understanding each individual’s specific problems and how to address those cannot be taught in a one-day course at a hotel. I’ve always found it unethical that the public is allowed to be misled into believing that a primary care dentist with very little training can accomplish the same thing as a specialist in 1/4 the amount of time. If orthodontics could be done four times faster, why wouldn’t orthodontists who are the experts do it that fast? My dad always told me that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I hope all goes well with your treatment from here forward.

  9. Amber says:

    I have always had a problem with my smile. My teeth are very uneven in length. I can line up my two incisors on the left side and have a gap large enough to stick my entire tongue through between top and bottom on the other side. However, my dentist told my mother when I was little that I didn’t need braces because my bite, spacing, and the rotation of my teeth is fine. I have a huge problem with my smile. I am very self conscious and often cover my mouth when I smile because it bothers me so much. However, I am a college student and cannot afford extremely expensive braces. I also have a fairly severe problem with canker sores. I will get 10-20 of them at a time and take daily medication to prevent them. What do you think would be the best option for me?

    • I cannot diagnose your case over the Internet Amber, but I would recommend a couple of things generally. If you can’t afford to do it correctly now, wait until you can. Second, there are options that might help you with your canker sores. Braces on the inside (lingual braces) and clear aligners are two that come to mind as alternates to regular braces. Discuss these options with your orthodontist when you are ready to begin treatment. Good luck!

  10. Lori Walt says:

    I’m in my 6th month of my 6 Month Braces and I severely regret my decision. I got these as I can’t afford regular braces (it was even extremely hard finding the money for these!). It’s caused a couple problem, one major problem is that it’s caused the root in one of my FRONT teeth to become exposed over half an inch! Now I’ve gotta get a gum graph (AND I’ve got to pay for it! It’ll be 600-1000$) and my teeth ARE NOT fully aligned. It’s like 50% of the work is done and now it’s time to take them off and after paying 3,500$ I’ll have to pay another 1,000$ to get my gum graph and another couple thousand dollars to get actual braces to ACTUALLY correct my freaking teeth. I’m outrageously upset, but the damage has been done and now I’ll have to take out a loan to get the damage fixed. STAY AWAY FROM 6 MONTHS SMILES!

    • I’m sorry that you had this experience Lori. One of the most important things that orthodontic specialists learn in their extra 24-36 months of training after graduating from dental school (as opposed to a one day seminar at a hotel), is how to anticipate the problems that you described in your own mouth. Orthodontists must get a dental license before they can be admitted into an orthodontic residency so that they can understand how the braces will affect the bone, the gums, and the roots of the teeth. They are all related and you can’t just throw braces on a set of teeth without affecting the gums and bone in the process. As for your teeth not being fully aligned after 6 months, I think that the advertising of that particular product is misleading. Does it make sense that a primary care dentist with one day of training can straighten teeth in just 6 months when it takes orthodontic specialists with years of training and experience an average of 24 months to correct typical orthodontic problems? If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

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