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!

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

  1. Susie says:

    Thank you for this explanation. I feel better knowing I am in stage 3. I had braces put on in 6th grade when I was 11 or 12 and taken off at the end of 7th grade. It turned out to be a big mistake. My jaw continued to grow, I didn’t wear the retainer faithfully, and soon I developed a cross bite and couldn’t fit it on my teeth. I had braces put on again as an adult then in 2009. I had worn a splint because I was grinding my teeth while sleeping and soon had a serious open bite (one tooth surface touched total). Because I live with chronic pain from migraine, TMD and fibromyalgia, I have not successfully worn the rubber bands as much as needed to in order to do much of the work. I have been wearing these braces for almost 5 years. Yes. 5 years. It’s good that I was given no time table and that my orthodontist has been patient. :) I can relate to wanting these braces off pronto. I will just give my two cents and say: Please, please, please, my wired friends, wear that retainer when you get through with wearing braces! Don’t be like Susie and wear it once in a while. Once in braces is enough.

  2. Brennan says:

    I have had braces for the past 14 months and I continue to have pain in my jaw. I recently noticed the pain being even higher on the jaw than previously. Is this normal during treatment?

  3. ayesha says:

    Hello. I got my braces removed a month back and got permanent retainers fixed on the lower and upper side. The gaps in my teeth closed when i had the braces but now i have the gaps again. My doctor told me that these spaces will close when the swelling of my gums will finish but im still worried that despite the fact that its been a month there are still gaps. Will these gaps close with time and how long will it take?

    • I doubt this will happen on its own. You must have some kind of force from an active retainer of some type. Ask your orthodontist to back up his claim with a Plan B in case the spaces don’t close.

  4. lexi says:

    Just wondering why an orthodontists would only take the top braces off and leave the bottoms on just to take them off a week later? When I had brace both top and bottom came off at the same time, but several of my friends are getting their braces taken off separately. is this I new thing for orthodontists?

    • I can think of a few reasons this may happen. First, maybe they were taken off to allow an impression (mold) to be made for a retainer. Second, maybe there was a little problem on the bottom that needed correction before the retainer could be made. Third, maybe they only had enough time to remove half of the braces on the first day (sometimes patients show up late!). This is not a new trend, and I don’t have the perfect answer for you. Your guess is as good as my three.

  5. tammy says:

    I have got my braces on for 2 years now, I’m 20 and I have missed some treatment and skipped using my head gear a few times I have 2 gaps on the top to be closed and 2 very tiny gaps at the bottom to be closed, I really want this treatment to be over soon… My dentist said that for quicker movement of the teeth to close the gaps I should consider putting screws or something (where they use it as anchers) I would really appreciate some advice as I’m eager to remove my braces but I want perfect teeth…

    • Hi Tammy. I cannot comment on your cases specifically, but if your doctor is talking about temporary anchors (TADs), they typically do not shorten treatment time. More commonly they allow us to move teeth further and in directions that would be difficult without other less desirable tools (i.e. surgery or headgear). Ask your orthodontist to explain how the temporary anchors will be used in your case and how they are going to speed up your treatment.

  6. Michelle says:

    I’ve been having my braces for 2 years and 2 months, I still have little gaps on some of my top teeth and my orthodontist doesn’t put a chain on them. How are the gaps suppose to close?

  7. Richard says:

    Hi, I had my braces 3 months back to correct the gaps in my front teeth. My ortho says that another few months I have to come for adjustment and after that elastic power chain will be placed and the gaps will be closed in short time. Pl can you explain the process

    • Think about braces as railroad cars on a track (the orthodontic wire). A power chain is like a bunch of rubber bands that pull all of the railroad cars together so there are no spaces between them. Hope that helps…

      • Richard says:

        Thanks for your reply. I wish to know at what stage this power chain is applied. I had my braces for correcting the gaps between my front teeth. Its almost 3 months I have completed for my treatment.

Leave a Comment

Back to Top

meet orthodontist Greg Jorgensen of Albuquerque NM
why choose our Rio Rancho NM orthodontic office
Schedule an appointment with our talented orthodontist online