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!

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

  1. Alisa M. says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen, thank you for the article. My son has braces for 2.0-2.5 years, is in the third stage, and we paid his braces off. His bite looks okay to me. Mine is not perfect either, but I am not an actress, and neither would he be. I feel that our orthodontist is fishing, because now he says we need a surgery on the bottom jaw.
    I would like to know (hypothetically):
    What would happen if we could remove braces right now?
    Also, another question. If I decide to change an orthodontist, does the current one need to remove his braces from my son’s mouth?
    Thank you very much.
    Sincerely,
    Alisa M.

    • If you remove braces before treatment is done, rarely are there irreversible consequences. If your son needs surgery but can’t have it now, you could have him wear retainers faithfully until he can. As for changing orthodontists, you do not need the braces off first. The new one can counsel you about the current braces you have on.

  2. lauren says:

    Hello! When your bite is corrected, all gaps are close, and teeth are straight, is it true you must leave them on for 6 more months after that? Please answer soon.

  3. Dayanara says:

    Hey, I have a question. When I was 12 I got braces for the first time for 3 years. After I got them off I lost my retainer and within a month my teeth were part to the way they were. I got braces again in March 2014 and my orthodontist said I’m getting them off in two weeks which will be October 21 2014, only 7 months with them on. All my gaps are closed except one next to my main bottom teeth. I’m not sure if I should keep them until they close or if they just don’t want to close. We’ve been trying to close them for a while and they wont

  4. Kay says:

    Hi! I really like your articles! I was wondering – if we had a perfect bite, what would it be like, and what are the chances that you can give your patients the perfect bite? I have currently had braces for almost two years and I’ve been on my final wire for about 7 months. However, my orthodontist hasn’t mentioned anything about my bite and whether it needs to be corrected, and I also don’t know what a perfect bite should be like. Could you please describe it? Thank you

    • Sorry Kay, there is no such thing as a perfect bite. There are ideals that we try for, but perfection in the human body is very rare. Dr. Larry Andrews described the Six Keys to Occlusion that describe a good bite, but even they are not always attainable. Here they are in a simplified form: 1) side teeth fit like gears, 2) teeth are aligned parallel to each other, 3) teeth are flared the right amount (not too far out or too far back), 4) teeth well aligned, 5) no spaces between the teeth, and 6) the height of all of the lower teeth are equal. There are other goals too, but these are some of the most basic.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for your article! Such a wealth of information. I especially admire how you took the time to answer all the comments/questions. My case is a but different and I could definitely use some professional advice. I’m 29 and have been on braces for 8 months. I started wearing rubber bands since month 2.5. My teeth have improved tremendously but, of course, it’s no where near done. I’m actually still on the initial wire. A few months ago, our family hit a financial bump & it sort of snowballed into a big, giant mess. Sadly (financially) we won’t be able to afford braces for much longer. Is it possible to remove braces before treatment is finished? I was hoping in a few years, when we get back on our feet and turn this mess around, to continue with my braces. But for the present time being, we need food on the table and a place to sleep. Please don’t tell me I’m gonna be “stuck” with braces and not being able to get any adjustments for the next two years…I also don’t want to lose the progress I have made so far (not to mention the money that was spent). Consequences for getting braces off early? Would they be able to give me a retainer to hold my teeth till I’m ready to start again?? Please advice on some do’s and Don’ts. Thank you!

    • I’m sorry to hear about your misfortune. You are not alone. This happens more than you think. I would ask the orthodontist to provide you with clear “suck down” retainers that you can wear every night until you are in a better situation and can begin your treatment again. With consistent retainer wear, you will not lose much of the progress you’ve made thus far. Good luck!

  6. Samantha says:

    Hi. I got my braces off for my senior pictures and my teeth looked amazing! I had a few spaces between my eye teeth and the ones right next to it which is why my mom made me get them back on. This was about three weeks ago and now my ortho has me seeing him every three weeks. Is this a good sign that I’m getting my braces off for good sometime soon? My bite has been good for quite sometime and when I get them tightened, he only does the top braces now. I also heard the word “reverse curve” the second to last appointment I had. I have no idea what that means.

    • Only your orthodontist can tell you how you are progressing. “Reverse curve” is changing the shape of the arch wire so that it helps open the bite and reduce the depth of vertical overlap. If you look in the mirror and cannot see your bottom braces all the way, you have a deep overbite and need some “reverse curve” top correct it.

  7. Sandi says:

    Thanks so much for your article , It was very informative and answered a lot of questions I had .I ask my orthodontist at each visit how things are going and I never really get a straight answer, I got braces 15 months ago and he told me 2 years although at one visit he indicated it would be sooner. People ask me constantly when I’m getting them off and I always have to tell them I don’t know . I think I must be in phase 3 . Thanks again and should I be bugging him for an answer ?

    • Your orthodontist is the only one who can evaluate your condition. If you are at the “end of your rope,” you and your orthodontist should negotiate a date for your removal and he should show you what remains to be done. If you get to that date and the correction is not complete, at least you’ll know what remains and can make an informed decision about getting them off anyways. He may require you to sign a release releasing him from liability if you demand them off before he’s reached his goals.

  8. Shay says:

    Hi there! I’ve had my braces on for 3 years now and I am very frustrated. Three years seems like a very long time to have braces on but thankfully I’m almost done. I’m a bit concerned because I still have one small gap but my teeth are very small. Is it possible that my teeth are just too small for the gap to close or do they have to close somehow?

    • This is a great question for your orthodontist. It is possible that your teeth are too small and that full space closure is not possible. This happens quite often with narrow upper laterals.

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