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.

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

  1. Kayla says:

    My teeth are all straight now and my gap is closed. At my last ortho appointment she told me she wants to start finalizing my braces, what does this mean? Am I going to get them off soon?

  2. Emily says:

    Hi. 🙂 So I’ve had my braces on for 11 months already, and now my ortho has decided to remove some teeth. there was already crowding but he didn’t perceive it to be this bad so now I need to get four teeth pulled and continue the process. besides the fact that my front teeth are sticking out my teeth are pretty straight. how much time to do think the teeth pulling will add to this?

    • Removing teeth will add at least 9 months to a year. Look at it this way, at least you’re still in treatment and the decision was made before your were done. Better to keep them on a while longer than having to do everything a second time down the road.

  3. Rachel says:

    Ive been in braces for 6 months, i had an underbite that was fixed with in a month with rubber bands, my orth said that on my last wire change i will get getting a the ‘ forsus, so my orth gave me the stopper at my last appt and on me third front teeth, he wanted me to have an overbite but my jaw didn’t wanna move forward. i went in two days ago because my wire was poking me and he shaved off the stoppers and gave me new rubber bands and said he wants my teeth to go over my brackets?, and that it was a bonus, that i came in. i was wondering if i was still going to get the forsus and get my braces off soon?

  4. Paige says:

    so i have the tiniest gap left to close and my orthodontist keeps filing in between my front two teeth to get rid of the gap there as well, other than that everything is perfectly straight. I got a new stainless steel wire and new rubber bands, then he told me that i was going to get something called a “hollywood polish” whatever that means? and that he was going to even out my top and bottom teeth, i wanted to know if this was a sign that i am going to get my braces off soon?

    • Sorry Paige. There is no way I can answer this. The only way to know is to ask your orthodontist. He can show you what is remaining to be fixed and give you a general idea. Good luck!

  5. Shawn says:

    I had exposure surgery in 2015 and I have 2 small gaps literally one is a little bigger then floss and the other is bigger not much though, I was suppose to get them off in February because that was my two year mark. How long does closing small gaps usually take? Like 3-5 months
    At my last ortho appointment she said “you’re at the beginning of getting your braces off” then she said ” your next appointment in June were repositioning some brackets.
    What’s that mean???? Honestly I just want them off and i know this is counseling but I didn’t want them in the first place my mom literally forced me because she wants me to have perfect teeth, I feel why I just want them off is because I’m almost 18 and I just want to live my life, normal 18 year olds are eating whatever they want, drinking whatever they want and I just want that!!
    Come on teeth!!!!

    • Spaces usually close at a rate of 1mm per month. Repositioning brackets means the orthodontist is going to move some brackets to help your teeth move closer to their final position. It sounds to me like you need to have a formal consultation with your orthodontist (and mom) and talk together about your goals, your mom’s goals, and your orthodontist’s goals. It is best when everyone is in agreement.

  6. Allie says:

    I have had my braces on for about a year and a half. They said it should only take 2 years. I just got my power chain placed on all of my upper teeth. There’s really no gaping on my right side but there’s some on the left. I’ve been wearing rubber bands for a while but I think my formation is to help the gaping or something, it doesn’t seem to be for my slight overbite. My bottom teeth don’t have power chains but they also don’t have any gaping. How long do you think it will be until I get my braces off?

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