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.

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

  1. HUSSAIN says:

    its been 10 months for my braces and each time at the time of appointment i get the rubber band changed but it is not a rubber band i feel its like a plastic tread which is dragged from centre and end of the molar i wanted to know does this is the only rubber band every body talks about or still i have not given rubber bands to wear pls clarify

    • The rubber bands to which most patients refer are the ones that are used for overbite correction. They are removable elastics that extend from an attachment on the bottom teeth to another attachment on the tops ones. The exact direction and force is dictated by the problem your orthodontist is trying to correct. What you probably have at this point is either a chain or an elastic tread. Those are used to close spaces or shift teeth within the same arch.

  2. Jen says:

    It’s been a year since I got my top braces on. My top braces were put on 6-7 months before I got my bottoms on. Is it possible to get my top removed before my bottoms? Or will they come off at the same time? Also I have an overjet of one front tooth, at first it shifted back to good shape and now it hasn’t been moving or completing its shift. Now it looks like it’s beginning to overjet more back to its original place. And I haven’t been put with rubber bands yet, not sure if I need them.

    • The top and bottom braces are typically removed the same day. There are too many things that require both upper and lower braces (i.e. rubber bands). If you haven’t had rubber bands yet, that’s the #1 reason to keep them both on.

  3. Emmy says:

    I’ve had my braces for 2 years and a couple months. After my orthsdontist was done correcting my teeth and bite they took out my hooks for my head gear. Now I have no elastics or head gear and every appointment they don’t really tighten my braces. Am I going to take them off soon?

  4. Natalie C says:

    I was wondering if you would be able to give me an approximate estimate of when, in your opinion, I will get my braces off. My ortho says 2-3 months nut I don’t think I’ll get them off that soon. I would like to sendI just would like another opinion. Thank you!

  5. Emmy says:

    I have had braces for 2 years and a few months. I had an overbite which was fixed with head gear. I’ve also had elastics to move my jaw over and a top and bottom expander. My teeth look very straight and 2 months ago I was told to stop wearing my head gear. Now I don’t have elastics, head gear, or any exanders, I just have my top and bottom braces. I got a scan of the roots of my teeth to see if they were in the right direction and two teeth needed to be fixed. Now everything is done and every time I go in for my appointment he just barely tightens them. Do you think I will get my braces off soon?

    • It sounds like you’re definitely heading in the right direction. Ask your orthodontist for his best guess next time you’re in his office. That will be the most accurate estimate.

  6. Leah says:

    I got power chains and elastic bands and my teeth are perfectly straight now when I went to the orthodontist the lady said I would get them off next time but I’m not sure if she means I’ll get my braces off or the elastic bands. Do you think I’ll get my braces off?

    • There’s no way for me to answer that. I have two suggestions, 1) check your appointment slip to see what procedure is scheduled (i.e. appliance removal?), and 2) just call the scheduling coordinator at the orthodontist’s office and ask what they wrote in your chart. Good luck!

  7. Autumn says:

    I’ve been in braces for four years now and my teeth have been straightened but my bite hasn’t been corrected yet. However, my experience with bands have been incredibly painful (coming from someone who has had every kind of appliance imaginable; chains, springs, steel wire, an expander, and four teeth pulled, bands have been the most painful part of my orthodontia experience) I am very very tempted to end my treatment early, and i was wondering what the long term effects of this might be. I do understand there are consequences to this but I am uncomfortable with how the realignment of my bite will make my face look and the pain is unbelievable

    • I can’t comment on how your bite will affect your oral health going forward, but I will say that many, many people have overbites and have never had treatment and they do just fine. Everyone is different

  8. Alyssa says:

    I have had my braces for almost 1 year and 11 months the estimated 2 years for me and I went to the orthodontist yesterday and she gave me a new wire that’s thicker than all the them and I think she said it’s to angle my teeth. She kept saying I was in my final stages for the first time that entire appointment and gave me rubber bands lower then the ones I have before. She said she wants to see me in 4 weeks. Can you estimate months? (Also all my teen are straight and everything you mentioned)

  9. Katie says:

    Hi, i’ve had my braces for 5 years, and i’m getting my final wire on Monday, how much longer do you think i’ll be in my braces after that?

  10. karl Kolodziejczyk says:

    Hi there, i think i am nearing the end of my treatment for correcting my bit and also some rotation has been complete, do braces always need rubber bands? if so how long are these on for>? my ortho I believe is one of the best

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