Dr. Greg Jorgensen
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The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

Does the Six Month Smiles Orthodontic Treatment Actually Work?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on December 27th, 2011

Calendar PagesIt 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. After only two days of training, 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.

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.

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

  1. Sarah c says:

    I am due to go for a consultation for 6 month smiles in a few days and this has really opened my eyes. Although it is cheaper, but not by a large amount, I think paying the extra and having braces for a longer time might be better in the long run. I’m so glad I saw this before paying £3000 for this. If only I could fly to Iowa to have it done properly!

  2. Karen says:

    My 13 year old daughter got her (regular) braces off the day I got my 6 month smiles put on. I have had them for a month and a half now and I regret it everyday! I had NO IDEA how much pain would I would have with them. The first week I had them the pain would wake me up at night and I couldn’t lift my head off my pillow. I do have problems with TMJ, which my dentist says that is what played a part in that. My biggest problem is my brackets break ALL the time. My first one broke the first day. When I was on vacation, the back bracket broke and I had to cut the wire and pull it out and go a week without a wire on top. I feel like I am doing something wrong. I’m not eating foods that I’m not suppose to, I’m cutting my foods really small, to be honest sometimes I don’t eat in fear I’m going to break something. Is this a common problem? When I go in to get them fix I feel like a student in the principal’s office. Like I am in trouble. I have used 4 containers of wax to keep the braces from cutting my lips. My daughter didn’t use that much the year she had braces. Is it me or is the 6 month smile materials made poorly? I love my dentist and my daughter’s teeth look awesome! But these things are killing me! I am about to the point of going and asking them to take them off. I guess it would be a big waste of $3800. Just curious if anyone knows the quality of the materials used to make the 6 month smiles.

    • I do not believe that the materials used in the technique your dentist is using are inferior. I think that the problem is with the skill of the provider using it. Your braces should not be coming off this easily. My staff and I place thousands of brackets on patients each month because I’m a specialist and that is all I do. I have become pretty good at it. When a dentist and his staff only perform orthodontic procedures “every now and then” with very little training (two days in most cases), they just don’t do it as well as a specialist. I’ll bet your dentist can do crowns better than me. I don’t do do them as often as him. I’m not critical of the tools your dentist is using, I’m skeptical of his training and experience.

    • farrah says:

      I was just quoted $4300 for six month smile and they dont even believe i will have them on for 6 months!

      • I can’t evaluate fees or give an opinion about what is fair or not fair. I do find it interesting however that non-specialists typically charge 75% of what a specialist would charges for only 25% of the treatment… and the specialist would fix all of the problems that exist, not just the front teeth. I’m not a big fan of short-term orthodontics. I would be willing to pay 25% more and get it all!

  3. Nate H says:

    I completely agree. I ended up trying six month smiles with my lower teeth and it was very much a half hearted attempt. While it did made progress with straightening, it was nowhere near where is should be given the money and time invested. I felt rushed and the company itself would not get involved with the dentist at all. Once it was slightly better they were done (even though we had not even hit 6 months yet) Do yourself a favor and go to an orthodontist.

  4. bex says:

    Oh No…. I feel a bit despondent now : ( Mine hurt for the first week but on week 2 they feel ok. Is it really not worth pursuing to correct a bit of an overbite?
    My dentist is quite proficient, not the type of person to go into “gimmicks” lightly.
    I will give her the benefit of the doubt for now. I doubt us British would fall for something that didn’t make any difference

    • Even providers of short-term orthodontics will tell you that they are mostly addressing the alignment of the front teeth and cannot correct bite problems in only 1/4 the time as traditional braces. I’m not doubting the proficiency of your dentist, but does it make sense that an orthodontic specialist with extensive additional training and experience would take four times as long as your primary care dentist (who has had only a few CE courses in orthodontics) to get the same results? If orthodontists could get the same results four times as fast, don’t you think we’d be doing this too?

  5. Sam says:

    Hi Dr. J,
    Can you tell me if using elastics around the two front teeth ran around the 2 bottom teeth, what would that accomplish?
    Thanks

    • Rubber bands pull things together. If they are between two teeth in the same arch, they will move the teeth together. If they are hooked between two teeth in different arches, they’ll move the two arches closer together.

  6. Sandy says:

    I was only interested in the 6 month smile because the only problem with my teeth I find is the gap in between my two top front teeth. Now I am currently second guessing it, but is it worth to get traditional braces for just a gap problem? I had consulted with my dentist before and he said my teeth were straight and aligned well, just the gap is a personal bother to me. Do you think the 6 month smile will fix my gap, or could it potentially cause a shift in my teeth and possibly ruin them or cause complications since they are already fine? On another note do you think it’s worth all that money just to close a small gap, and are there other solutions rather than braces?

    • Sandy, I’m not critical of any commercial product (which is what Six Month Smiles is). I am more concerned about the training and experience of the practitioner. Moving teeth is not hard. NOT moving the teeth that are already in the right place it the hard part. As for fixing your gap. Even though it may seem simple to you, or even be described that way by a primary care dentist with little experience moving teeth, it may be more complex than you think if your bite is also not right. Other alternatives to braces for closing your space are clear aligners (like Invisalign) or veneers (avoiding tooth movement altogether by widening the teeth to close the space).

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