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!

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

  1. Sadie Charles says:

    I have had my braces on for nearly a year and I still have a small gap in my front teeth. Will that close or stay?

  2. jackie maina says:

    Hi I’m finding this article to be very informative! I would like to know two teeth were taken out from my lower jaw I was wearing rubber bands but they bent the teeth too much so everything was taken out it’s been a year now and they’re almost back to normal but will I have to wear the braces again to close the gaps missing from the two teeth? Thanks

    • If you have spaces between your teeth, you have three options: 1) leave the spaces, 2) close the space, or 3) fill the spaces (with an implant or bridge). Ask your orthodontist what he’s got planned for you.

  3. Jane says:

    I´m 32 I´ve had braces for 3 years, my overbite is not aligned, and I still don´t like how my front teeth look like. I went to see other 3 doctors and they told me I needed extractions and now I should start a new treatment for at least 1 year and 4 months. I don´t know what to, my doctor is taking them off (the other doctors told me that if he could not correct my problem in 3 years I should stop)but at the same time I don’t know if starting a new treatment is the best choice, not only for the time but I don’t know if my teeth would be worst. Should I start all over again with extractions?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Jane. I sympathize with your situation. If you have had your braces for 3 years with no improvement, I would switch doctors. In my mind, the overbite problem should have been addressed from the start and you should have known how and when it would be fixed all through treatment. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing for three years, you’re likely to get the same result. I would find another orthodontist who can evaluate the health of your gums, bone, teeth, and roots to make sure they are healthy enough for more treatment. Good luck!

  4. Danish says:

    Thank you the informative article. I am currently in the stripping phase where my doctor is creating some space on the front bottom teeth to align them as well as allow the upper teeth to move backwards. What I am currently seeing is when I close me teeth, the left side teeth (both bottom and top) don’t touch each other.

    From you article, I guess I am currently in the space closing phase. When that gets done, I hope my doctor will make sure the outer top cusps sit on the bottom cusps. Also, I still haven’t got brackets on the molars at the end of my mouth.

    Does my doctor seems to be going in the right direction?

    • I’m glad that this article has given a little guidance on where you are in treatment. Next time you’re in your orthodontist’s chair, ask him or her to show you exactly what has to be done before your braces come off. Also ask about the 12-year-molars.

  5. Mewish says:

    Hi there,
    I have had my braces for about 10 months now. My dentist has said my progress is very good. I went to him today and he said we need to close the gaps and push the teeth back in this would be for my upper teeth, and for the lower one he said something about pushing them in and creating gaps so that the top teeth when they close won’t get stuck there. I’ve got a powerchain on the top teeth and just a normal rubber brand on the bottom, and he’s also used some wire to add more pressure. My question here is would my treatment take longer than a year? and what do the numbers he uses for my wire mean for e/g lower 16 x 16 upper 17 x 12 etc

    thank you =]

    • The numbers your orthodontist is using are describing the sizes of wires being used on your teeth. Round wires are described by their diameter (i.e. 16 NITI means a round .016 inch in diameter wire made out of nickel titanium). Rectangular wires have two numbers, one for thickness and one for width (i.e. 17×25 stainless is a .017 inch by .025 inch rectangular wire made out of stainless steel). Round wires are usually best for initial alignment while rectangular wires give the doctor more control and help in the finishing steps of treatment.

  6. Moh says:

    Hey. I had to upper premolar extracted. But I still don’t like the end result. Though my doctor insists that they are perfect now. What can I do.

    • There are some cases where there just isn’t enough room to keep all the teeth, even using expanders, functional appliances, or even self-ligating brackets. In these cases the result of NOT removing teeth might be unattractive, unhealthy, and/or unstable. It is possible to replace teeth that have been removed, but if you didn’t have room before treatment, you probably won’t have room after either.

  7. Richard says:

    Hi, I have been with braces nearly six months and from the past few days I am observing some unusal thing. Whenever I wake up in morning I observe some white spots on teeth which disappear when I brush or rinse my mouth with water. After that for the entire day I do not observe those spots. I have been practising good oral hygience since I got braces but this thing is making me worried. Could you please explain the reason for this and how to prevent it?

    • Richard says:

      Hi, I have been with braces nearly six months and from the past few days I am observing some unusal thing. Whenever I wake up in morning I observe some white spots on teeth which disappear when I brush or rinse my mouth with water. After that for the entire day I do not observe those spots. I have been practising good oral hygience since I got braces but this thing is making me worried. Could you please explain the reason for this and how to prevent it? Is this due to dehydration of saliva during night time because sometimes I have the habit of breathing through mouth.

      • I think your suspicions are correct Richard. Nocturnal mouth breathing can dry or “desiccate” the enamel making some areas appear lighter than when they are wet or hydrated. The same thing happens when a dentist dries your teeth for a dental procedure.

    • I think your suspicions are correct Richard. Nocturnal mouth breathing can dry or “desiccate” the enamel making some areas appear lighter than when they are wet or hydrated. The same thing happens when a dentist dries your teeth for a dental procedure.

  8. Sally says:

    Hi. I am getting my braces off in two days and I’ve had them on for 7 years. My teeth were pretty messed up back then but honestly I think my orthodontist had me wearing braces for way too long. Have you ever had someone wear braces for 7 years and if so, how bad were their teeth in the first place?

    • 7 years seems too long to me. I think the longest I’ve ever seen was 4 years. Some factors that affect the length of treatment are: 1) complexity, 2) age, 3) patient compliance with appointments, rubber bands, etc, 4) continued growth, and 5) changes in treatment plan mid-treatment. You should ask your orthodontist why yours took so long… or do you already know looking at this list?

  9. Nikki says:

    Hi there!
    I’ve been in braces for roughly two and a half years and I’m 20 years old at the moment. My orthodontist (who is lovely, he’s a gem!) keeps telling me that I am in the “detailing” stage and I have been on my “final wire” since May. I have a pan-X-ray scheduled for this coming October and was wondering if this is normal? Also, how long do you reckon I have left? Thanks much!

    • I can’t estimate treatment time over the Internet. Your doctor may be taking a pano to see if the roots are in the best position before the braces come off. Ask him to show you exactly what he’s working on at your next visit.

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