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.

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

  1. brittany says:

    i got my braces in march 2014. it is now july 2015, at a previous visit my orthodontist said i could get my braces off in september, but at my latest appointment he said january. its quite a time difference and im not very happy about it at all. all my orthodontist does at visits is change the colors on my braces, he doesnt tighten them, change the wire, or anything. i want my braces off before august 31st, how can i convince/tell my orthodontist to take them off?

    • Obviously your orthodontist sees some things that are not quite done and wants to finish correctly before ending your treatment. They are your teeth however, and you can just tell him to take them off and you accept responsibility for the treatment being ended early.

  2. Lindy says:

    Hi, I’ve had my braces on for 2 and a half years. I haven’t been to the orthodontist in about 6 months because my mom had lost her job and my dad is incarcerated, there’s no way for her to pay them off anytime soon. At this point, they are really starting to hurt my jaw, it’s hurts to talk. Is there anyway that the orthodontist will take them off upon request even with my braces not being fully paid?

    • In my practice, we realize that bad things happen to good people. We normally remove the braces, provide retainers to hold the teeth right where they are until the treatment can resume, and we start again when the family is ready. It is the right thing to do

  3. Ashley says:

    I’ve had my braces on for 10 months and never missed an appointment. My next appointment is in the first week of August but I will not be able to go because I am out of town until the beginning of September. Will this effect me in any way ? Will my teeth shift or anything like that ? Thank you.

    • If you miss an appointment, your treatment will probably be delayed. The adjustments that would have been made at the original appointment will not be done until the makeup appointment.

  4. Janie says:

    I’ve had braces since August of 2013, the time given was two years so I should be done soon I’m assuming? Since then I have had 2 surgeries on my teeth, exposures of my two top canines. They have come down and my teeth are straight. The only issue is my bite. The right side of my mouth is higher than the other and I have been given rubber bands to wear in a triangle on the right side of my mouth. I’ve been wearing them for 9 weeks and the bite seems to be correcting itself but how much longer do you think?

    • I can’t even begin to guess, but I did want to mention that patients with impacted canines almost always take longer (like 30 to 36 months), so don’t get impatient.

  5. Olivia says:

    I’ve had my braces on for about 3 years, and all that’s left is to fix my overbite. School is starting in less than a month and I still have a slight overbite. Is there any way to get my braces off before that? My front top and bottom teeth are not yet touching but are pretty close.

  6. Jenn says:

    I’ve been having my braces for 6 years i’m 19 now, because of some financial problems i stopped visiting my orthodontist and i couldn’t continue, but then i started to see another dentist but i never make it to the appointments and even when i do he never did anything to them,my upper front teeth dont fit my lower front teeths, i’m thinking about getting them off, i seriously dont know what to do, what do you think Doctor? Thank you very much.

    • I can’t make this decision for you. You need to sit down with a local doctor and discuss your teeth, your finances, your desires to finish treatment, and make a plan that is best for you

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