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.

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

  1. sarah nielson says:

    Hi I am 16 years old and I got braces on in December 2014. They told me I would get them off in a year. Now its September 30 2015 and I had a appointment about a month ago and they said at that last appointment that I would have them on for a another year. I can look at my teeth and they look like I could get them off by next year or before this year ends. Is there a way you could contact me personally like call me or something and help me figure this out? I want my last high school year with no braces or even before that. Thanks please reply soon!

    • Sorry Sarah. Only your local orthodontist can help you. I can only give my opinion about my patients in my state where I am licenses. Please talk to your own doctor for the best answer.

  2. Jen says:

    My orthodontist told me at my last visit that “it’s up to me” on whether or not at my next visit I’m okay with my teeth. They put my last wire on my lowers 3 months ago, and the top 4 weeks ago. He also mentioned possibly switching from current elastics to a boxed elastic. Would it be beneficial for me to stay in braces and use boxed elastics or am I okay getting braces off shortly?

  3. Tassy Cimini says:

    I just had my ortho. appointment and she power chained all of my teeth and said that was to close up any small gaps I might still have. She also told me I only have to wear elastics at night. Does this mean i’m coming to the end of my treatment?

    • There is no way for me to answer questions about when braces are coming off over the Internet. Those are questions for your local orthodontist. The use of chains on the teeth can occur at the beginning, middle, or end of treatment.

  4. Taylor F says:

    My orthodontist told me i would only need my braces for about 24 months i believe but when i last went to them they said my teeth were doing really good and if i wore my bands how they said for the next 8 weeks i could finish the treatment in 18 months. i was just wondering if they give you a warning before taking your braces off or next time i go can they just take them off? for example will i need to go back and wait another 8 weeks or can they just take them off when i go back?

    • I can almost guarantee that they won’t come off next time. Your office will need to schedule a removal appointment which is different than an adjustment. You’ll have to ask them how long you’ll have to wait for that to happen.

  5. Poppy hunter says:

    Hi, I’m just wondering if you could help me out a tad. I’ve had my braces since May 2014 and I was said that I should need them in for 18 months. The teeth themselves are all straight (I had a overcrowded mouth and needed 4 teeth removed), I’ve had to wear elastic bands (no longer need them) and I just have slight gaps but my orthodontist said (in October) that if we manage to fit two appointments in by December (my next appointment is 7th December and will be my second appointment) I may be getting them off in January/ February time. My question really is how long will it take for the brace to be removed and will I feel any pain?
    Thank you :)

    >> also I really want to be a orthodontic therapist when I’m older <<

    • Removing braces in my office only takes about 15 to 20 minutes. There is some pressure when we dislodge the brackets from the teeth and some patients are a little sensitive to the dental handpiece we use to polish away the residual cement. All in all the procedure is well tolerated by patients… especially since the braces are then off!

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