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.

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

  1. Ayesa says:

    hi my question is that i have had braces for about three and a half years now. i tell my doctor to take them off and he says he can’t cause he needs the Medicaid’s approval. if i tell him to take them off, does he heave the right to take them off or he has the right to delay it and not listen to me? and also are their any major negative effects for having braces on for a long time? and also what steps does the dr. take before taking off your braces except taking pictures of your teeth?

    thank you for your time

  2. Kendal says:

    I am going over seas on the27th of June and I’m in the third stage of treatment. My orthodontist said I should get them off in August but if I always wear my elastics I would get them off in July. What would happen if he had to take them off earlier 27th of June. I want to look nice for the pictures. And also the back of my front teeth used to touch my bottom of teeth and now they don’t? Is that right?

    • Only your local orthodontist can evaluate your particular case. Ask him these questions in the treatment chair with you holding a mirror so he can instruct you.

  3. sara says:

    I have a nickel allergy and since having my braces have had severe swellening to my eyes and cuts in my mouth.my dermataligist told me to get rid of the braces but my orthodontist tells me it’s not because of the braces and won’t but on plastic ones.I’ve explained to him ive never had the’s symptoms before my braces.he’s not convinced..any suggestions?

    • I would always defer to the allergist. If a patient didn’t have the problems before and then all of the sudden has them, I would think there may be a correlation. You may have to finish is aligners, but please understand that this may not give you the same result at the braces would have and that there may be additional expenses due to the additional costs of the aligners.

  4. Karen says:

    I have had braces on for 1 year, part of an 18 month treatment time (though my dentist said at the beginning it would probably be shorter than that). I had a minor class II malocculsion and very small gaps between my front lateral incisors and front teeth. My teeth have been in their final position for months, with the gaps closed, and I have been wearing box elastics to lock in my bite for the last 3 months. At my last appointment, I asked my ortho if I could get my braces off next month since they are in position and have been for a while.

    He said that my teeth need to “set” in position before I can get my braces off, and that if I wanted them off early I would need to sign a release waiver that limits his liability if they end up moving.

    My question is whether teeth need to “set” in braces (isn’t that what retainers are for?) I want to know because I am in university and very self-conscious about wearing braces so don’t want to wear them any longer than absolutely necessary.

    • There is no research that show how long it takes for teeth to “set” after movement. Typically we’ll make smaller and smaller changes until there is nothing left to do… then we take them off. Only or doctor can tell you what is going on with your mouth.

  5. Nisa says:

    Getting my braces off in 4 weeks and I just want to know what does “lace” do ? My ortho put a lace tie thingy around my brackets.

  6. cassity says:

    I’ve had braces for a little over a year , I haven’t got my rubber bands yet .. Do all patients have to get them ?. there are no spaces between my teeth and my over bite is pretty much gone my teeth barley touch when I bite down .

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