When Can I Get My Braces Off?
“When can I get my braces off?” We hear this question all the time. Braces can be uncomfortable and there are few people in the world that actually like wearing them. They can interfere with your normal eating habits and may induce extra stress, especially on the teenagers that most often have orthodontic treatment. Knowing when you will be able to get your braces off can help make the treatment more bearable and give you a goal to look forward to. While it is impossible to predict, months or years ahead of time, exactly when you will be able to get your braces off, there are a few factors that contribute to when you can get your braces off.
Are you following the orthodontist’s instructions?
One of the things that can seriously slow down treatment is a patient who does not follow the instructions of the orthodontist. Keeping up a cleaning routine is vital to any treatment. Some treatments require patients to be more involved than others. We try to give clear instructions to our patients so they know exactly what they have to do in order to ensure their treatment proceeds on schedule.
Are your teeth responding to the treatment?
Despite our combined best efforts, some teeth may not be cooperating. While braces or Invisalign can fix a whole gauntlet of problems, it is possible that some teeth move more slowly than originally anticipated. If there are teeth that are simply not responding to treatment as quickly as we had originally hoped, braces may have to be left on longer than we first anticipated.
How complex were the original problems?
How many issues we identified at the beginning of treatment and how complex those issues were can contribute to a protracted treatment. Both traditional braces and Invisalign may go on for longer than we thought, if the problems are not easily corrected. Teeth that are turned in their sockets, crowded areas that do not respond well to spacers, gaps in teeth, etc. are all problems that may take more time, because of their complexity. If the original problems were quite complex, treatment will naturally take longer than with a patient who needed only a few teeth moved around.
Have any additional problems been identified?
As treatment progresses, it is possible that we will find additional issues that we want to address. In some instances, if the original treatment plan does not seem to be working, we will find another route which may work better. While this may feel like starting over to some individuals, if one treatment is not working, it is always best to find another that may work better. It is not uncommon that as treatment progresses, we will find another issue that we want to address, while we have the braces on.
Has the patient been diligent with their role in their own treatment?
There are many orthodontic treatments that require heavy patient involvement. A bridge, for example, that is designed to widen the upper or lower bite, often needs daily adjustment, which the patient performs. If the patient is not diligent with this task, it will take much longer to widen the bite than if the patient did adjust the bridge every day. The same goes for treatments like headgear and rubber bands (elastics), which are all on the responsibility of the patient to insert and properly use on a day to day basis.
Are there any special events approaching?
In some circumstances, if treatment is coming to a close, it is possible to have your braces removed before a special event like a wedding or graduation. If you speak with Dr. Gemmi and Dr. Middleberg and let him/her know that you have an important event coming up in the next couple of months, right around when you were going to get your braces off anyway, it may be possible to schedule an early appointment to get your braces off before the event.
Are the teeth straight enough for the orthodontist and patient?
Even if treatment is supposed to be complete, the treatment may not fully be finished. If the teeth are not straight enough for the patient and not aligned enough for the orthodontist, a few additional months may need to be tacked on to the end of the treatment, just to ensure that the teeth are in the right place. It is important to note that you should only get your braces off when you are completely happy with the position of your teeth, as getting them off too early may leave you with undesirable results. If the teeth aren’t straight, it simply isn’t time to get your braces off.
Are all gaps completely closed up?
Even if the teeth are straight and relatively well aligned, there may still be gaps in between the teeth that the patient and orthodontist want to have addressed. Just because the bite looks good in the front, doesn’t mean that treatment is completely finished. Any remaining gaps can become places for food and plaque to collect and fester. They may even lead to bone decay in the jaw later down the road. Closing up all of those left over gaps before removing the braces may extend treatment, but the patient will be happy for it in the end.
Is the bite correctly aligned?
The teeth might be straight, but the bite might not yet be correctly aligned. This is one of the number one ways we will tell whether or not your treatment is finished. If your upper and lower teeth line up and there is proper overlap of the top and bottom teeth in the front of the mouth, it may be time to remove the braces. If not, even a straight smile may need a little more time with the braces.