Dr. Greg Jorgensen
(505) 891-9440
1401 Barbara Loop SE
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.

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

  1. Ahmed says:

    Hi I got my braces on 20th June 2015 and I just went to my orthodontist and they said in about 8 weeks time they may remove my braces. They said my bite needs a little more work, however I’m 100% happy with my teeth as I feel it isn’t as straight as I would of liked. Also everyone I know has braces in for minimum 2 years so if I tell them I want it on for a little longer will my teeth continue to improve? Or is this it in terms of how straight it is? So now my appointment is in January when they said the braces may come off and I’m confused? The lady said today my teeth are a little different terms of height but I believe certain teeth can still be more straight I understand height has nothing to do with the braces. She did say me to tell the lady on next appointment if I do not want to remove the braces. My main question is will it get more straight if I keep them longer? FINALLY I missed appointments every now and then, for example there were around 3 MONTHS gaps between appointments as I was busy and couldn’t attend? Therefore does this have anything to do with it and surely shouldn’t I have them on longer since I missed appointments? Any suggestion would be very appreciated.

    • I can’t diagnose your case for you. I will say that keeping the braces on longer does not mean the teeth will get straighter. You need to have your orthodontist show you what remains to be done and ask him specifically how long that will take. Longer does not equal straighter.

  2. Kiev findley says:

    hey dr.. i had my braces a year now and my teeth are not completely straight..i received the rubber bands on my braces and my dentist said it will remain for 3 months..is this process effective?

  3. Bella says:

    I’ve had my braces for a year and two months. I’m in the rubber bands phase. My teeth were very crooked but they shifted quickly. I know I’m not done with my treatment but I have some questions.
    My lateral teeth are still behind my front teeth, when will they shift? Or will they stay like that? Also I wanted to know if it’s normal in this treatment to shape or polish teeth so they don’t have a different shape? My lower teeth do not look all the same and I want them to get polished but I don’t know if my orthodontist is willing to do that.
    And the third question, is it better if it eat with my rubber bands? And how long is usually the third phase? Thank you very much

    • 1. Your laterals can be adjusted any time during treatment. Show them to your orthodontist at your next visit for adjustment. 2. Reshaping the teeth is part of almost every orthodontic treatment I perform. It is common and can be done very easily by your orthodontist. 3. Taking your rubber bands out to eat will not slow your treatment. I would take them out just to make eating easier and cleaner. Good luck!

  4. karlie says:

    I have elastics about how long will I have them on until I get me braces off :(.

  5. Layal says:

    I’ve had my braces on for 1 year and one month but at an appointment, my dentist was putting the power chains on and put lots of pressure on one of my front teeth that made them shift to where they were before braces. I’ve told him about it but he says that everything will be fixed when I get a retainer which makes no sense to me. What should I do?

    • I find it hard to believe that placing elastic chain moved a tooth that fast. I think you need to discuss this again with your orthodontist BEFORE the braces come off. Some corrections are possible with retainers, but only very small ones

  6. Patrick says:

    Hi Dr!
    I extremely need help so my orthodontist has had my braces on for a while and my teeth are straight but today I had my final tighten and they gave me elastics and I am supposed to wear them up to the 14th of feb however summer is coming up and other little things so I will not be able to wear them 24/7 like they say so I am planning on not wearing them u til the 1st of Feb or 23rd of Jan to give them 2-3 weeks to use the elastics will this work I know I should wear them all the way through but I am extremely self concious and I am nervous my jaw line and facial structure might change from wearing it and it was causing me physical stress and I could not relax will this happen and if so will wearing for 2-3 weeks have same affect
    Thanks doc!

    • Elastics only work if you wear them as prescribed (22 hours in my office) for months and months. If you only wear them part time for for a few weeks and then stop, you won’t see any benefit at all. By the way, elastics only move teeth, they will not move your jaws or change your facial structure.

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