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.

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

  1. Charlotte says:

    So I have had braces for two years now and I am soposed to get them off next week soposively… Last checkup they took off my rubber bands and said it looked rly good but now I think it went back to an overbite which always happens because they always take my rubber bands on and off. I will describe my bite to u please tell me if I have and overbite. My front teeth touch the top of my bottom brackets but I see half the rest of the brackets but my teeth last appointment rested on the top where I could see the whole bracket please respond!!!!

    • It does sound like there has been some “rebound.” I would see your orthodontist to see if you should re-start the rubber bands and possibly delay your removal until things are more stable.

  2. Marcus says:

    Hello Doctor,

    I am currently in braces (been in braces for 2.5 years now). I had extractions before treatment began and was diagnosed with a class II malocclusion. Currently my orthodontist has placed class II check rubber bands on my braces and a powerchain on my four front teeth but not all the way across. This has made my front of my face protrude which is aesthetically unpleasing. He says he is opening the bite so he can move things around. do you think this ugly stage will be resolved? It’s very concerning.

    Thank You!

    • I wrote and article that explains that things can look worse before they look better during treatment, but your specific concerns should be discussed with the orthodontist providing your care. You should be almost done (and happy with your results) by 2 1/2 years.

  3. Erin says:

    With all the repetitive “talk to your orthodontist/only your orthodontist can answer your questions/you should go see your orthodontist” replies, you would think people would have caught on by now that the only person who can answer your questions is YOUR orthodontist! Most of the questions being asked are the same and the answers are also going to be the same, so why keep asking when you already know what the answer is going to be? People please, use some common sense and TALK TO YOUR ORTHODONTIST.

  4. Rahul says:

    I am and adult and was on orthodontics treatment for around 15 months to close gaps. After that I wore the retainer for the same amount of time. Now, I wear them only at every alternate night.
    When can i stop wearing retainers?

  5. Anitta says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,

    I enjoyed reading this post and I am now more comfortable about getting braces. I am 24 and have a diastema about 11 mm wide between my front upper teeth. I did a couple of x-rays and my dentist recommended braces to align the bite and close of minor spaces and then a bridge for the gap. I was anxious initially because the x-rays showed that I don’t have a proper bone structure to close up the gap only with braces. So I got a franectomy done and then I’m getting my braces in a week.. Anyway my question is… do you think there have been cases when the braces are taken off earlier than expected because of great results? My dentist said it would take about 10-12 months for my teeth to completely align and then we can fix the bridge… I am gonna move out of the country for grad school next September..

  6. Savannah H says:

    Hey, so I am suppose to have my braces for another six months but my teeth align perfectly, there are no spaces, and my top teeth all rest perfectly over the lower. When this occures do braces come off immediatly or do they leave them for a few extra months to ensure they stay in place. Friends and family say the latter but is that true?

    • Only your orthodontist can answer this. What you see and what he sees (with his additional training and experience) may be slightly different. Generally, once the teeth are straight, I usually hold them in place for at least a month or two before removing the braces to give them time to become more stable. This is fairly standard in our profession.

  7. Kate Lopez says:

    My ortho recently told me that my next appointment will be at 10am because its going to take 1 hours and a half does this mean im getting them off by the way I had them for a year now And my teeth are looking great only a few gaps that will be fix with the power chain.

  8. Chrissy says:

    I got my braces on July 2015 It was said that I have 18 months with braces. It is now October 2016 my process is going good. When will I get them off ?

  9. Katie says:

    Hello! I have had my braces on for nearly 2.5 years now and I am wondering when they will come off? I have been told by my orthodontist that my next appointment will be longer and with a higher up orthodontist does that mean I will be getting them off. They have said that my teeth are perfect although I have a slight overbite which I am wearing bands in aim to fix! Thank you

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