Understanding the Detailing Stage of Braces: A Quick Guide

Braces treatment takes a long time, and you’re probably already painfully aware of this. You may be wondering why you’re still in braces since your teeth are already straight and your bite is good. 

While most people are familiar with the initial alignment stage of braces, many may not know about the detailing stage of braces, and this is what we’re going to cover today.

The detailing stage of braces, also known as the refinement period or the finishing stage, is the final stage of orthodontic treatment. During this stage, the orthodontist fine-tunes the position of the teeth to ensure that they are perfectly aligned and the bite is correct.

Whether you have metal, ceramic or self-ligating braces, you’ll undoubtedly go through at least a month of detailing, if not much more. Be sure not to pressure your orthodontist to take your braces off too soon – this finishing stage is crucial for the long term stability of your results.

What is the Detailing Stage of Braces?

Once your teeth have been aligned and any gaps have been closed during the earlier stages of braces treatment, you’ll move on to the detailing stage. This usually lasts for several months and helps perfect your smile even further.

During the detailing stage, the orthodontist makes minor but essential adjustments to ensure that everything is straight and exactly where it should be. This stage is critical to achieving the perfect smile and bite. The orthodontist will use various tools and techniques, such as elastics, power chains, wire bends and bracket repositioning, to fine-tune the position of the teeth.

Typically, the bite is not quite settled before the finishing stage, and the teeth, although they may look straight, are not exactly in their ideal positions. There are certain rules and guidelines for finishing a case as close to perfection as possible.

Here is what the ABO (American Board of Orthodontics) suggests we work on:

  • Alignment: teeth should be straight and properly aligned.
  • Occlusion: the bite should be correct, with the upper and lower teeth fitting together properly.
  • Overjet: the horizontal overlap of the upper and lower front teeth should be within normal limits.
  • Overbite: the vertical overlap of the upper and lower front teeth should be within normal limits.
  • Interproximal contacts: the teeth should touch each other properly, without any spaces.
  • Buccal occlusion: the back teeth should fit together properly on the outside surface.
  • Functional occlusion: the teeth should function properly, allowing for proper chewing and speaking.
  • Aesthetics: the overall appearance of the teeth and smile should be pleasing and attractive.

Meeting these criteria is important to ensure that your orthodontic treatment has achieved the desired results and that you get a healthy, functional, and beautiful smile.

So let’s explore the multiple tools we use in our office to achieve all this.

What Happens During the Detailing Stage?

Your orthodontist will use a variety of techniques to make detailing adjustments. One common technique is to use detailing wire bends. 

Detailing wire bends are small bends, often 0.5mm, made in the wire to help move individual teeth into slightly altered positions. These bends are made using specialized pliers and require a high level of skill and precision. Learn more about wire bends and twists in this article.

An alternative to wire bends is repositioning braces to a new location on the teeth and using a lighter wire to straighten everything to the new standards. Many offices go by this philosophy and you may undergo a repositioning procedure toward the end of your treatment.

In addition to wire bends, the orthodontist may also use rubber bands to apply additional force to specific teeth. This can help to correct any remaining occlusion issues and help certain groups of teeth fit tighter together when you bite. Some orthodontists remove the wire from the back teeth while instructing their patients to wear the elastics, in a process called bite settling.

If you have issues with your midline not being on point, you may get rubber bands for your midline too. This is harder to correct, but it will make teeth fit together better in the end, like the last piece of a giant puzzle.

Check out this article on what type of rubber bands you might get to understand how they work.

Throughout the detailing stage, you will need to continue attending regular appointments with your orthodontist. These appointments typically occur every 4-6 weeks and allow your orthodontist to monitor progress and make any necessary adjustments. 

Overall, the detailing stage is a critical part of the braces treatment process. By making these final adjustments, your orthodontist can ensure that you reach the best possible results.

How Long Does the Detailing Stage Last?

The length of this stage can vary depending on the individual patient’s needs and the severity of their orthodontic issues. 

Typically, the detailing stage lasts anywhere from a couple of months to 6 months or more. Ideally, the finishing stage shouldn’t last longer than 3 months if the previous stages of braces corrected most of the issues and coordinated the dental arches properly.

Using wire bends and waiting for them to get expressed inside the braces slot is a slow process. That’s why some orthodontists may decide to cut corners and use a lot of rubber bands in the hopes of finishing the case sooner. This is not a correct approach, and it’s what separates an average orthodontist from an excellent one.

Another recent method of detailing includes removing the braces just before the treatment is nearly complete and creating a set of clear aligners that apply the ideal amount of correction. This mixed approach may be more comfortable for the patient, but it’s not a one size fits all. 

After the Detailing Stage

After the detailing stage of braces, patients move on to the retention phase. This phase is crucial in maintaining the results achieved during the previous stages of treatment. 

During the retention phase, patients will wear a retainer to keep their teeth in their new positions. Retainers can be either removable or fixed. 

Removable Essix retainers are made of clear plastic and are worn over the teeth. They are easy to clean and can be removed for eating and brushing. Wraparound or Hawley retainers are a bit more bulky and have a wire running over the front teeth, but they’re still easy to remove.

Fixed retainers, on the other hand, are bonded to the back of the teeth and cannot be removed by the patient. They are typically used for the lower front teeth, where there is a higher risk of relapse. Your orthodontist will be the one who decides which type of retainer you get, based on the severity of your case.

It is important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions for wearing and caring for the retainer. Failure to wear the retainer as directed can result in relapse, where the teeth move back to their original positions. 

Patients should also continue to visit their orthodontist for regular check-ups to ensure that their teeth remain in their new positions. 

In some cases, new refinements may be necessary after the retention phase, especially if some minor relapse has occured. This may either involve getting braces again or the use of a few clear aligners sets to make minor corrections – check this article on wearing brace twice for more information. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the detailing stage in braces treatment is the final step towards achieving a straight and healthy smile. While it may take a few months, it’s worth the effort to ensure that your teeth stay in their corrected positions and reduce the risk of relapse. 

Plus, once the braces come off, you’ll be left with a beautiful smile that you can be proud of! Remember to follow your orthodontist’s instructions for wearing and caring for your retainers, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions or voice concerns throughout the detailing stage. Good luck on the rest of your orthodontic journey!

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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