Dr. Greg Jorgensen
(505) 891-9440
1401 Barbara Loop SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

Could My New Braces Be Making My Teeth Worse?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on July 26th, 2011

I just got my new braces on last week. Funny, but I think they’re making my teeth worse! I have a gap where there wasn’t one before and one of my lower front teeth is now more crooked that when I started. Is this normal?

Straightening the teeth is a dynamic process; your teeth will be changing throughout treatment. During the process of alignment, especially during the first 6 months, you may notice that things look worse before they look better. Here’s why:

Although your teeth are crowded and crooked when you first come in to see Dr. Jorgensen, they have usually drifted into a position where they are stable and functional. Your body is amazing at adapting to problems that exist. If you have a lower jaw that is smaller than the upper for example, the top teeth will be pushed back by your upper lip and your lower teeth will be pushed forward by your tongue. We call these “dental compensations.” If the teeth are crowded, the crowding is usually spread evenly among the teeth.

We approach straightening teeth in stages. The first stage is to unravel any crowding. If you have teeth removed, you may notice improvements in the appearance of your teeth right away. If you do not, you may actually notice changes in the alignment of your teeth that temporary make them look worse. You could get spaces where there were none before. You may notice that teeth that were once straight now overlap. You might even notice that although most teeth look straighter, one or two may actually get more crooked! This is because the braces will take all of the crowding that was spread out over several teeth and consolidate it in one or two areas. This is completely normal and necessary.

In the process of removing dental compensations, you will notice changes in the relationship of the upper and lower teeth. If you have a lower jaw that is smaller than your upper, aligning the teeth may actually create more of an overbite. If your upper jaw is smaller than your lower, aligning the arches may create an underbite where there wasn’t one before. These changes in your bite are normal and should be anticipated.

After the crowding is resolved and the teeth are aligned, the next step is to level the arches. If you start with a deep bite, the goal is to “open the bite” so that your lower teeth are more visible. If you start with an open bite, we’ll want to deepen the bite so the top teeth overlap the bottom ones. About the same time we address the vertical relationship, we also work to make the width of the upper and lower arches match (coordinate the arches).

The final stage of treatment is to optimize the over bite or under bite. This may be done with rubber bands, functional appliances, extractions, or orthognathic surgery. Because the teeth are usually straight by this stage, this is the time that is the most frustrating for patients. This is when we start hearing “When will I be getting my braces off?”

Understanding this sequence will give you an idea of where you are in your treatment. Knowing that there will be transitional changes along the way that may actually make things look worse before they look better will make you more confident that your treatment is going as expected.

68 comments so far in response to “Could My New Braces Be Making My Teeth Worse?”

  1. Sandra says:

    I had Damon braces put on 8 months ago. Everything seems to be going pretty well except I notice that my bottom teeth on the right side are all lower now than the left side. I was concerned that maybe I was wearing them down, but I do see that the wire itself is not level–it slopes down on that side. I’m pretty positive it wasn’t this way when they were first put on. So I’m guessing there is a way to lift these teeth back up so all of my teeth on the bottom will be level? Is this common? I have an ortho apptmt in 3 weeks, but I was glad to see your website so I can ask this question now. Thanks so much!

    • I think that 8 months is long enough to get an idea of where your treatment is going. If you notice that your arch is slanted (or canted) down on the right side, you should point it out to your orthodontist sooner rather than later. It may have something to do with the braces, but it may also have something to do with your jaw structure. Temporary anchors and rubber bands between the upper and lower can be used to help correct this, but you need to get on it before two long or it will end up lengthening your treatment. Good luck!

  2. Darren says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,

    I have my braces for about 6 months now. I am pretty satisfied with the results on my lower teeth – the progress is obvious. However, on my upper teeth, I do not see much progress – my 2 center teeth are now aligned (the right side actually a bit towards the exterior) and there is an obvious asymmetry between the right and left side of the upper crown (the arch is not horizontal – it starts up from the left side and goes down towards the left side). I must admit that the teeth were crowded and the two upper center teeth are not even. My orthodontist says that it may be a problem with the bracket which is not properly glued, but she wants to wait a bit to see if the left teeth will not follow the other one. Is this kind of asymmetry normal for this long (3-4 months now).

    • Three to four months is not very long in orthodontic treatment. I think you need to give your orthodontist some time before you get too concerned. Keep your eye on the progress, but it has not been long enough to see how the final result will turn out.

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