Dr. Greg Jorgensen
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Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

When Do I Get My Braces Off?

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on May 19th, 2013

Woman ShruggingThe most common question I get as an orthodontist is “When do I get my braces off?” Although treatment is different for every patient, there are some basic objectives and steps of treatment that are similar for the majority of patients. If you have braces and want to know how you are progressing, read on…

In my office there are three distinct phases of treatment through which every patient must pass. Although their order may be switched or there may be some overlap between them, the three phases include resolving the crowding/spacing, aligning the teeth, and correcting the bite.

In the first phase, crowding is corrected by expanding the arches or by removing teeth. Teeth cannot be aligned if there is not enough room. The decision to expand or extract is determined by a number of variables including the size of the teeth and jaws, the amount of bone and gum tissue supporting the roots, and the profile. The first step is to create room so that the teeth can be aligned. If a patient has extra space at the start of treatment, that space must be closed during this step.

Once there is room, the second step is to align or straighten the teeth. Aligning the arches is accomplished using wires, elastic chains, springs, and other auxiliaries (“gadgets”) that rotate, tip, and torque the teeth into their desired positions. Another common step in the alignment process is “repositioning” individual brackets. Sometimes brackets cannot be put in the right place on the first day because of the bite, the alignment, or the shape of the teeth. After the teeth have been partially aligned however, the brackets can then be moved to better positions.

The third phase of treatment is correcting the bite or making the upper teeth fit the lower ones. This must be accomplished in all three planes of space, front to back (overbite or underbite), side to side (crossbites), as well as top to bottom (open bite or deep bite). Making the upper match the lower is accomplished with wires, rubber bands, springs, or surgery. When the bite is right, the backs of the top teeth rest lightly on the fronts of the bottom ones. (There are also some specific functional relationships that must be “just so” at the end of treatment, but the specifics are beyond the scope of this article.)

The “When do I get my braces off?” question usually arises during the third or “bite phase” of treatment. By that time the crowded, crooked teeth are gone and the patient is generally happy with how things look. Admittedly, the first half of treatment is more exciting than the last half. It is during the final phase however where the bite is corrected so that the results will be healthy and stable.

If you are wondering if you’re getting close to getting your braces off, compare what you see in your mouth with this list:

1. Are the teeth straight?
2. Are the spaces between the teeth closed completely?
3. Do the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth appropriately (not too deep, but no visible space between them)?
4. Are the outer cusps of the upper teeth resting on the outside of the corresponding ones in the lower?
5. Is the overbite or underbite corrected?

If it is obvious that your teeth are still crooked, have spaces between them, or you still have a deep bite or overbite, you probably still have some time remaining. If your treatment time is longer that was originally estimated, check out another article I wrote about that at http://www.gregjorgensen.com/blog/2012/03/three-reasons-your-orthodontic-braces-are-still-on/. If you have specific questions about your smile, ask your orthodontist to explain what objectives remain in your treatment. If he or she is conscientious, your braces will come off when the best result is achieved and not before. Good luck!

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.

126 comments so far in response to “When Do I Get My Braces Off?”

  1. Marnasia says:

    Hello! I’ve had braces for about 2 1/5 years now and I’ve noticed some swelling where some gaps have closed. I tried flossing and it didn’t really work and my gums aren’t bloody it’s mostly one specific spot. Anyway, I was wondering if when I get my braces off, will the swelling go down? Is there another way to reduce the swelling other than flossing?

  2. Brenda Johnson says:

    Hello, Thank you for your website. Its is very educational. I am an adult orthodontic patient. I had my palette expanded and have worn my braces for over two years now. I am in the third stage, and am anticipating lower jaw surgery to correct my overbite. I was quoted as having my braces off as of February 2014. My orthodontist is working with rubber bands and says I am not ready for the ortho surgeon. As of my last appointment he said surgery by middle of next year. This is making me apprehensive. What is the best way to approach him to get a plan of action? My braces are paid off at this point and I’m not sure why this is taking so long. I don’t want to offend him but am becoming skeptical. Thank you.

    • It is very important to get the teeth in the right position before surgery. Your orthodontist should be taking models about every 3 to 6 months as you approach surgery so he can make sure the teeth will fit afterwards. Have him show you your next set and have him explain what remains to be done.

  3. jenna says:

    hello, your letter was very helpful,but one question in the number 4 above what does that mean. I have braces myself (HATE THEM WANT OT GET THEM OFF SO BAD!), but all of the numbers listed above i have all those correct so do you know when i would get them off.

    • These guidelines are a summary of the things I look for in my own patients. You need to discuss your individual case with your orthodontist and have him tell you what remains to be finished on his “checklist.”

  4. Richard says:

    Hi,

    I am in braces nearly 9 months now and my orthodontist has been applying power chain in the last 2 appointment to close gaps in upper teeth. Does that mean that I am in my last phase of treatment and how long will it take to close the gaps with power chain?
    Also, the braces on lower teeth are remaining which my orthodontist is recommending will take hardly 2-3 months and will be applied after the gaps in upper teeth are closed.

    Are we moving in the right direction as I want my braces to come off as soon as possible.

    • Questions about the progress of orthodontic treatment can only be answered by the orthodontist providing the care. Only he knows starting point, the ending point, and where along the continuum you are.

  5. Tessa says:

    I’ve had braces for 5 months now and my teeth are pretty much straight already. I’m really pleased with them and recently got bands to correct my bite. I have been told it will take 2 and a half years until my orthodontic treatment is done but surely it can’t take two years to correct a bite? Basically my question is, how long does is usually take to correct an overbite?

    • Asking that question is like asking, “How long does it take to paint a house?” There are too many factors. If the teeth were fairly straight, they may be aligned within the first few appointments and then the overjet correction may take between 3 and 18 months. Your best bet would be to ask your orthodontist for an estimate.

  6. Anna says:

    I’m in the 3rd, finishing, phase of my braces. I’ve had them on now for almost two years. Today I had an orthodontist appointment, where I saw an orthodontist I hadn’t seen before (the practice I go to has 2 orthodontists). While I was there, the orthodontic assistant hooked the power chain onto the hooks on the bands of my second molars, which I’m supposed to use as one of the hooks for my elastics. The problem – the elastics don’t stay on the hook (there isn’t enough room), and are impossible to put on without a mirror! I have to instead loop the elastic around the back part of the band, which I don’t think I’m supposed to be doing. Do you think that the assistant made a mistake? I’m due to get my braces off within the next 2-3 months, so I don’t want to have a delay in getting them off!

    • It does not sound like any mistake was made. What you’ve described is perfectly fine. If you can’t attach your elastic where you were told to, I would talk to your orthodontist.

  7. Pat says:

    Hi, I’m taking my braces off next month.Very excited! But I notice that there’s a space on my upper left ( next to the fang tooth).When will it close? Not sure if this is part of the last treatment phase? I don’t want to delay anymore treatment.

  8. Abid says:

    Hello Dr.,
    I’m an adult orthodontic patient undergoing the process for past 3 years and 3 months wearing ceramic braces. Originally my treatment was estimated to be 2 years. Most of alignment and retraction are done except for the visible gap between the canine and premolars hasn’t been closed. My Orthodontist has been working on that for past 8 months but in vain. And today he says nothing further can be done and the gap cannot be closed because the of the lower canine’s interference during the bite. He has literally given up saying that the space will close naturally over time, which I feel bad for. I’m also mentioning what i felt odd during the treatment; I’ve never felt much pressure on the left side (faulty side) during the treatment, and felt pressure only on the right side where I could see the teeth aligning and retracting sooner. This I’ve mentioned to him too but didn’t get any response. I’m clueless on how to go about it and need advice on that. Thanks.

    • There are times where the teeth in the opposing arch do interfere with tooth movement in the desired arch. That is just biology. You may need to have the space closed by bonding or crowning the tooth after your braces are off. We orthodontists are just human. Sometimes we can’t overcome Mother Nature!

  9. Patricia says:

    Hi. I’ve had my braces on for almost 5 years now. I’m on the third phase, specifically correcting my deepbite. My dentist has been sayingfor at least a year now that I can soon have my braces removed. She hasn’t removed it since my bite is not yet correct. But I want to get rid of it soon. I’m tired of having braces. Is it okay if I ask my dentist to remove it even if my bite is still incorrect? Thank you!

    • I would recommend that you have your orthodontist evaluate your bite and show you what remains to be done. Ask him specifically what harm there would be in ending treatment early.

  10. Angie says:

    I have been wearing my braces for 18 months. I am scheduled to get my braces off tomorrow, but I have one front tooth on the bottom that is very slightly turned in. He has filed to make room several times. Do you think I will still be able to get them off tomorrow or will he most likely leave them on.

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