6 Month Smiles Reviewed
In this article our Smileworks dentists and specialist orthodontists will give a detailed and unbiased review of the Six Month Smiles braces system (6MS). Six Month Smiles is a popular system here in Liverpool and certainly has some great benefits. But time and again we’re seeing patients who are confused about the pros and cons of the system and we felt it was time to put the record straight. For more general discussion about our different braces systems visit our main Braces Liverpool page.
Here at Smileworks we have no commercial affiliations with any of the providers of braces systems and are free to make clinical judgments based on what we consider is in your best interests. We also have both general dentists and a specialist orthodontist, Dr Laurence Masters. You can find him on the specialist register here. This means that we can give you a broad range of experiences to help you make informed decisions about treatment.
Our dentists and orthodontists have a huge amount of experience and have seen every conceivable type of conventional and short term orthodontic treatment on hundreds of patients. This means we can give you an even and unbiased review so you can decide whether 6 month smiles is for you.
Six Month Smiles Pros & Cons (TL;DR)
Here’s an image, short description and a useful table of six month smiles pro’s and cons for those of you who don’t have much time:
What is Six Month Smiles
Six Month Smiles® are braces with clear brackets that are used by general dentists and not orthodontic specialists to align the front six teeth. Costing £2,150, they are used for simple cases and are not suitable for more complex alignment. The term ‘Six Month Smiles’ is misleading because the teeth do not move faster, your dentist will simply choose cases that can be completed in 6 months or less.
|Quick (2-9 Months)||No quicker than any other STO treatment. 6 Months is the average treatment time|
|Discreet Brackets||Clear brackets more likely to come off teeth causing problems|
|Discreet White Wires||Only for simple cases|
|Inexpensive (second cheapest treatment at Smileworks)||Wires can discolour on brushing|
|No need for a specialist orthodontist||You might not be suitable|
|Can take longer than six months (patient expectations)|
What is Short Term Orthodontics (STO)?
Six month smiles is a type of braces called ‘short term orthodontics’. Confusingly this means that your treatment is done by a general dentist and not a specialist orthodontist. In fact the system is designed precisely so non-specialist dentists can use it to correct simple and straight forward cases. So any type of dentist can use Six Month Smiles. You don’t need the expertise of an orthodontist to use this system. In fact, an orthodontist would have no reason to use 6MS because they can literally put together the same package for you using their specialist skills. Invisalign is the removable system that sits on the fence because orthodontists and general dentists like to use it. You can read about that in our main article here: Invisalign®. Or to read our helpful price comparison take a look at this page: Invisalign prices.
The manufacturers of six month smiles say they’re an ‘innovative’ system for the following reasons:
– Average treatment times of only six months
– Our Lucid-Lok® clear brackets and tooth-colored wires are barely visible
– Use of braces has been shown to provide the most conservative and predictable final result
– Our Patient Tray Kits™ ensure that your appointments are fast and comfortable
– Low forces and short term overall orthodontic treatment times increase comfort, safety, and hygiene.
– We’re typically less expensive than traditional braces, aligner therapy, or veneers.
Here at Smileworks we gathered our team of experts to see whether we agree with these claims. Note there is no mention of orthodontic extractions as that is usually the sphere of a specialist orthodontist.
Average treatment times of only six months
Six months is an average treatment time. But it’s not the ‘maximum treatment time’ as many patients think. So some cases will be done in 2 months and some will take 10 months. They have taken all the treatments and come up with the average. It also has a nice ring to it. But statistically speaking your case has a 50% chance of taking longer than six months. If your case is not straight forward, however, then there is a 0% chance of it taking 6 months.
So are these braces faster than other systems? Dentist Tom Hedge, DDS from Houston put’s it very succinctly in his Real Self review;
“Teeth can only move so fast. The rate of movement is not determined by the type of braces or how frequently they are adjusted… Orthodontics can only be “accelerated” by setting limited goals and/or choosing a less than satisfactory outcome.”
So the reason it takes, on average, six months is because the cases are simple. There’s no magic technology moving your teeth faster.
Here at Smileworks we offer 6MS and other similar systems called ‘short term orthodontics’. These systems are faster because they only move the front teeth or what dentists call the ‘social six’.
Here’s what our general dentist, Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann said about short term orthodontics;
“There are a tonne of STO on the market such as 6 month smiles, CFAST, Quick straight teeth, Fastbraces… there are so many! The most important thing to bear in mind is that STO is for mild cases only that don’t need comprehensive adjustment of the bite and the way the teeth work together; it is mainly to correct the aesthetic appearance of the teeth without really treating the underlying causes of why the teeth are misaligned in the first place.”
So it’s becoming clear that short term ortho treatments are only for mild cases. This seems a pretty important factor and many of the problems that we see with 6MS is nothing to do with the braces themselves but to do with dentists possibly trying to do too much with an inherently limited system.
It’s also a fact that these systems are not any faster than other types of braces, they just have less far to go and are consequently done in less time. Saying they are fast is perhaps a little misleading. It’s like saying one runner is ‘faster’ than the other because she ran 100m in less time than it took someone else to run a mile! So let’s look at the next innovation.
Our Lucid-Lok® clear brackets and tooth-colored wires are barely visible
It’s difficult to say what words like ‘barely visible’ or ‘invisible’ mean. So here’s some pictures and you can judge for yourself.
We literally got the first few images that came up on google and haven’t edited them or searched for good or bad examples. In fact, I would imagine these patients smiling on selfies would say their braces look pretty great. And we agree. Here at Smileworks we’ve got absolutely no problem with a mouth full of metal, in fact that’s often the best way for us to fix your teeth straightening problems.
6 Month Smiles are certainly less visible than fixed braces – that look like this:
Although whether you’d consider them ‘barely visible’ is a matter for you. It all depends on your personality and how much discretion you’re looking for. Here’s 6MS next to an Invisalign® patient. Invisalign® is the ‘invisible’ braces system that, in our opinion, certainly could be described as ‘invisible’ or ‘barely visible’. This is someone’s own selfie, not a shot from the Invisalign® website. We’ve also included an image of lingual braces called Incognito®. These are braces that fix onto the backs of the teeth and are also ‘invisible’.
Lucid-Lok®, although being a registered trademark is just a type of tooth coloured or ceramic bracket. There are tons of these available on all the other short term ortho systems and they can sometimes cost a little extra if you want them as an added feature with with your braces.
As they are made of plastic, they don’t stick to the teeth as well as metal or ceramic brackets used in conventional braces treatment. Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann says:
They are plastic brackets and don’t stick as well as metal. They come off all the time and this can be an inconvenience for patients and sometimes interfere with their braces treatment. The tooth coloured wires are teflon-coated metal wires, which can lose their colour when brushing properly, as the white covering on the wire will wear off. Also, tooth coloured wires have more friction with the bracket, so they can result in the bracket not moving so quickly. It’s for this reason that most orthodontists, and our crew here at Smileworks, prefer to use metal coloured wires as the tooth movement can be quicker.
Other less-visible-than-metal braces systems include Inman Aligners which have a clear bar on the front teeth, and also Lingual braces that fit onto the backs of the teeth and and for this reason completely invisible. The only drawback with Lingual systems such as Incognito® is they are made from gold and that makes them pretty pricey.
Use of braces has been shown to provide the most conservative and predictable final result
We had some disagreements in the office about what this one is getting at. I think they are saying that braces are awesome. This is something that we whole-heartedly agree with here at Smileworks. Or possibly it’s a dig at Invisalign, and they are saying that fixed braces are better than removable retainers or aligners. Whether this system is ‘conservative’ is another moot point. It is conservative because there’s a pretty low likelihood that a patient suitable for 6 month smiles is going to need extractions. Cases where there is a need for removal of teeth are likely not suitable for 6MS.
But again, 6MS shouldn’t really be claiming to have some magical way of doing a complicated job better than other systems in a more conservative way. That’s not the case. Again, there’s no magical conservative features here. It’s just the way orthodontics works.
So perhaps this is a general statement about short term ortho treatment and not something that’s unique to six month smiles. But you can judge that for yourselves.
Our Patient Tray Kits™ ensure that your appointments are fast and comfortable
Here’s the patient tray kit™. We unboxed one and had a look. The first thing we all agreed upon is there’s nothing really worthy of a little ™ in here.
It’s all just the stuff your dentist needs to put your braces on. Also this is dentist stuff not take home stuff. We found some brace-wax in there that your dentist will give to you, but the rest unfortunately is for the professionals to play with and not a goodie-bag like many patients think. If you come to Smileworks and have any STO then you’ll get some brace-wax. Ours comes in all the colours of the rainbow. Maybe we should get a little ™ for that? Or maybe not.
Basically a general dentist has less experience and less training than a specialist orthodontist so it’s nice to have everything all in one place so they can do the job of putting the brackets and wires on quickly and simply. And that’s that. It’s also a pretty cool little box and we thought it might be nice to bring sandwiches to work in. Once your ortho treatment is finished, obvs.
Low forces and short term overall orthodontic treatment times increase comfort, safety, and hygiene
The shorter the case the fewer chances for complications. These braces only work on straight forward cases, so in these cases you are unlikely to need more than low forces and 6-9 months to get the job done. There is nothing special about Six Month Smiles that moves teeth in a special way more safely than any other system. All STO have these benefits, and conventional braces do too – you just gotta use them correctly.
The safety question is important to mention here. There’s certain risks associated with all orthodontic treatments. Among these is something called ‘root resorption’ and can be potentially bad for teeth. Many believe that root resorption is caused by too much force on the teeth. But again, we think it’s actually rather misleading to claim that 6MS are ‘safer’ than other braces.
Imagine you see an advert for the world’s safest car. This car causes 90% fewer accidents than any other car. You buy the car and take it for a spin. Ten meters down the road you realise that your new car only has a top speed of 10mph. Is it misleading to claim that it’s ‘safe’ just because it doesn’t go very fast? That’s up to you. Is it ok to say that this car is a ‘innovation’? That’s also up to you to decide.
We’re typically less expensive than traditional braces, aligner therapy, or veneers
Now with the price we’re really onto something. Six Month Smiles is cheaper than a lot of systems and you can expect to pay from £2,150 for treatment. In fact, it’s our second cheapest braces option tied with the other STO treatment Cfast.
Six Month Smile Cost
Six Month Smiles Cost Compared (in Liverpool)
M = Moderate
D = Difficult
|Invisalign®||Discreet & |
|6-18||E, M, D|
|Six Month |
|Discreet / tooth |
|6-24||E, M, D|
|12-24||E, M, D|
|Inman Aligner||No: but|
(one arch only)
It is a nice, simple, straight forward and inexpensive solution. The fact that the patients treated for 6MS are all straight forward braces cases means less time and less work for the dentists. This equates to less cost for patients. Win-win!
Our Professional Review of Six Month Smiles
So in our opinion Six Months Smiles is a good system but it’s got nothing that sets it apart from all the other types of STO treatments like Cfast, Quick Straight Teeth and Fastbraces® which are also good systems. In fact Fastbraces® makes a pretty good case for having some genuine innovations such as their triangular brackets and square wires that put different types of forces on the teeth to move them in a different way. It’s certainly a different and new way of doing things. Whether it works better is up to our dentists and orthodontists to decide. And they would no doubt disagree.
We’re not sure if anything we’ve seen from Six Month Smiles is an innovation and the use of registered trademarks all over the place is typical of Short Term Orthodontic systems. They are basically the same but are trying to convince patients and dentists that they have special features that make them different.
Here in the office we’ve decided to rebrand Six Month Smiles to help you understand what you’re getting a bit better. We’re calling it “Straight Forward Smiles”. Straight teeth, straight forward, geddit? This is probably more descriptive than trying to blind you with science that’s unfortunately, a little shaky.
If there was something revolutionary about STO treatments then Orthodontists would be using Lucid-Lok® brackets on their patients. Orthodontists would also probably be using triangle brackets by Fastbraces®. But they’re not.
We asked our resident Specialist Orthodontist, Dr Laurence Masters what he thought of Six Month Smiles as a braces system The results may surprise you but they are certainly echoed by a number of other leading orthodontists who believe that Short Term Orthodontics, as well as being a misnomer is a little misleading:
Six months smiles (like many so called short term orthodontic products) are putting orthodontics (a clinical speciality) in the hands of less qualified practitioners who often don’t get the best outcomes for their patients.Teeth straightening as an industry is worth hundreds of billions worldwide and has become an industry controlled by big powerful companies and not orthodontists and the people caring for patients. Many Orthodontists agree that STO is all about making money at the patient’s expense.Obviously there are simple cases where we might require basic alignment of teeth, as in relapse cases or very mild malocclusions where we are not changing the patient’s bite. Unfortunately most GDPs will take on cases that require comprehensive orthodontics. They forsake occlusion and function for “quick fix” cosmetic goals because they lack the knowledge to know which cases are suitable and which are not. This is what I call “Alignodontics”. If you have a heart condition, would you see your GP or would you rather be seen by a Cardiologist?These claims that they are faster and safer than other braces are unsupported by scientific evidence or literature. The companies market the claims in a way that is often misleading and false. Not so long ago the one of the biggest orthodontic providers got into trouble for claiming that their braces were faster and safer than conventional brackets and shot themselves in the foot in doing so. The UK Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint made by an orthodontist that basically accused them of misrepresenting the benefits of self-ligating braces.
Who is Suitable for 6 Month Smiles / STO in general?
But advertising and joking aside, there are some serious concerns that both our dentists and orthodontists have surfaced with the entire principle of accelerated orthodontics.
It’s all to do with the choice of patients. A lot of the time patients will see short term ortho products and want them. They read that these systems straighten the front six teeth and are smarter, better, faster and stronger than all the rest. They think, ‘great, my front 6 teeth are crowded so I’m suitable’. What they don’t realise is that the crowding is often also present in their back teeth too. But they cant see those teeth so don’t notice it. So a good dentist will manage the patients’ expectations and choose a comprehensive product. Or refer them to an orthodontist.
But unfortunately this hardly ever happens and we see dentists trying to treat all sorts of cases with STO and getting every shade of dodgy result imaginable. Some dentists will simply have a go when the case is borderline and this typically leads to relapse and unhappy outcomes. This is why you hear one complaint of this system time after time after time;
“Aaaaagh! My six month smiles took 14 months!”
This is not good for the patient or the dentist because they’ll often be working hard having to see a patient for double the time it should have taken to finish the case. And the patient has to continue in braces when they want to be showing off their beautiful smile.
R. William McNeill, an Orthodontist from the States sums up the position nicely;
I find that most patients who come in for a consult do not realise that they have crowding at the back of the mouth as well as the front. So normally we have to correct the whole dental arch… Accelerated ortho is only useful for mild cases and usually only at the front.
And here are some of the reviews of Six Month Smiles from the front page of Real Self. These are all almost 100% cases that should not have been attempted with STO:
This is also confirmed by a number of Orthodontists including Ron D Wilson, an Orthodontist from Gainsville who says;
“In my opinion, a “six months smile” is not possible with any type of treatment… Teeth need time to move and must move within the bodies own natural physiological ability to adapt to the change in bone and soft tissue”
Many Orthodontists would agree with this statement although it’s clear that if the correct cases are chosen wisely then there should be no problems. What Dr Wilson is saying is that a complex case cannot be done in six months.
So if you’re looking for a perfect result then perhaps six months smiles is not for you. But if you’re looking for an inexpensive and more-subtle-than-metal-braces treatment then it will be suitable – along with all the other types of STO available from your dentist.
Is Six Months Smiles is right for me?
Well the answer is that you can’t ever know without seeing a dentist for a consultation. You’ll need to see a dentist or orthodontist to have an assessment and they’ll advise you on what are the best options.
There are some things you should be aware of when choosing a dentist. There are some dentists who are not specialist orthodontists and only do Six Month Smiles. This should be a warning sign. Do you think that a dentist who only uses one or two systems might be more likely to say you’re suitable for one of those two systems? We think so. And this is supported by a whole ton of negative reviews from patients who’ve had problems.
Also you need to choose a practice where there are not only dentists but also specialist orthodontists present. This will ensure that you are getting the best level of care and don’t end up as one of the patients complaining on Real Self that your Six months Smiles was a 15 month disaster!
To learn more about all the different types of braces and orthodontic systems available from Smileworks take a look at our main page here: Braces.
To make an appointment for an orthodontic assessment or braces assessment fill out the form in the footer below and we’ll be in touch immediately. Or you can call the team on 0151 236 5166.