Still Don’t Like Your Teeth After Braces? What Can You Do?

The big day has arrived and your braces are finally coming off. You look in the mirror and you’re not enthused. You may be fighting back tears. You still hate your teeth. They’re straight, but they don’t look good. In fact, they look really weird. Will you ever get used to them, and is everybody else seeing what you’re seeing?

Many patients are a bit shocked when their braces come off. Some patients say their teeth are too straight, look too big, or are just plain weird. While there’s not always a solution, we can fix other issues such as yellow teeth, or put braces back on if the treatment wasn’t complete.

I see this all the time in my practice. Patients become almost attached to their braces when it’s time to take them off. They look in the mirror and don’t recognize their teeth, or say things like “my teeth looked better with braces on”.

So what’s going on? Are your teeth really in the wrong position, or is it their shape and size that’s bugging you? We’ll explore these concerns in this article.

Here’s why You Might Hate your smile after braces

I researched the forums just to see what people were saying about their new smile after braces. Teeth that are “too big”, “weirdly straight” and “sticking out” were mentioned more than once.

Here’s the thing: as long as your bite is properly aligned and your teeth are in the right angles and position, there’s only so much your orthodontist can do. If you’re not sure what’s bothering you, here’s a list of common annoyances people have with their teeth:

teeth look too big

Here’s a little secret. I love big teeth. I love working with them, bonding brackets on them and I love how they look on a patient. Big teeth are easier to clean with braces on, and when they’re straight and white, they’re the focal point of your face.

I’m sure you know plenty of actors with big teeth. Anne Hathaway comes to mind. Not only are her incisors bigger than average, she’s also showing most of her teeth in a wide flashy smile.

Your teeth may seem big to you now, but that’s probably because they’ve been half-covered with braces for a couple of years or more. Also, if your smile is wider, that’s usually a good thing. So don’t stress too much about it, you’ll get used to it. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make teeth smaller.

Your teeth look “too” straight

Another thing patients complain about is that their teeth look “too straight” now. It feels unnatural for them. They’re right, it’s not natural. Mother nature never intended for us to have perfectly straight teeth. However, that’s how braces work.

As orthodontists and dentists, we have these specific rules of how teeth should sit. Some orthodontists like to create more of a curved smile than others.

If you feel like your smile is too flat compared to your lips, that could be true. Depending on the bracket positioning, braces could have that effect. The only possible solution is getting braces back on, or elongating incisors with veneers.

Another thing that can flatten teeth and make them look too straight is grinding down canine tips. Some patients complained their orthodontists shaved off too much of their canine cusps or even did so without permission.

teeth have no personality

This is coming from the patient who loved the quirks of his or her teeth, but they’re all lost now. Their teeth look like everyone else’s, too straight to look natural. It’s true, braces can make teeth look pretty uniform.

As orthodontists, when we see irregularities in a patient’s teeth, we tend to smooth them out, or bond composite over them in an effort to make everything look even.

Most people want smooth straight edges once their treatment is complete. However, some really like their unique features, like rounded incisor edges or pointy canines. Hopefully, your orthodontist asked for your permission before making any changes.

Your smile is too gummy

Are you showing more gum when smiling and didn’t have this issue before braces? You might be on to something. Braces can and do sometimes cause a gummy smile, and if it’s noticeable, you’re right to be concerned.

I wrote this in-depth article about this gummy smile, so here’s a summary:

Braces may cause a gummy smile if you were treated with extractions and your teeth were pulled back or had an open bite treated with up-and-down elastics. We often resort to extractions or elastics when the patient wants to avoid surgery. Unfortunately, showing more gum can be an unwanted side effect.

The best three things to alleviate gummy smile are:

  • Intrusion with braces, but expect a long treatment. I suggest seeking multiple medical opinions.
  • Gummy smile surgery, where your dentist removes some of the gum and lengthens your teeth. The results can be pretty impressive if you have short teeth.
  • Botox, to relax your upper lip and hide the gums. It’s not a permanent solution, but it helps. However, most people are on the fence about this cosmetic solution, understandably.

Your teeth are too yellow

Yellow teeth during and after orthodontic treatment are a common occurrence. Braces don’t cause yellow teeth, but they can hinder a patient’s ability to clean their teeth. Couple imperfect oral hygiene and staining foods and drinks, plus not being able to whiten your teeth, and you’ll be shocked once the braces come off.

All patients have yellow teeth once the braces come off. Don’t worry. It’s our job to make them squeaky clean again and polish them. You will also be able to whiten them, but I suggest focusing on getting your teeth healthy first. A few fluoride varnish applications might help.

Yellow top teeth vs. veneers on bottom teeth

Once the enamel is strong enough (usually a matter of weeks or a couple of months), you can ask your dentist for a whitening procedure, either at their office, or at home. If you have permanent stains, such as white spot lesions, you might need a bit of bonding done, or even veneers.

Either way, rest assured that yellow teeth are normal after braces and easily fixable.

Your teeth are sticking out

Some patients complain that their teeth stick out after orthodontic treatment and they “look like a horse”. If this is you, then perhaps your orthodontic treatment didn’t exactly fix your issues. Teeth that stick out are caused by either proclination or overjet, and they’re a legitimate concern.

Proclination happens when teeth don’t have enough room to straighten at a normal angle. It also happens due to poor control during orthodontic treatment (using thing wires, for example). As a result, the front teeth flare and stick out.

Some orthodontists treat their patients without extractions, even though they’re much needed. This can happen either because the patient is against extractions or because the orthodontist prefers to expand the arch. If this applies to you, you can get braces again and try to go the extraction route to fix the teeth’s angles.

If you don’t like your teeth because they are flared, it’s best to discuss things with your orthodontist, preferably before getting the braces off. Perhaps getting a second opinion would be best. Either way, it’s an uncomfortable situation after such a long journey.

Your teeth are still crooked

Sometimes, despite all good intentions, some misaligned teeth can’t be entirely corrected. As a result, your teeth may feel a little crooked or imperfect. This can happen because certain teeth have a more protruded or irregular shape compared to the rest of the arch.

Check this article if your teeth still aren’t straight after braces, it’s more common than you think. The most common causes are incomplete orthodontic treatment, tooth anatomy, and even relapse.

If your teeth shifted, you can wear braces a second time, for a short while (3-4 months), to correct a minor relapse. As an alternative, you can resort to veneers, crowns, whitening, and other cosmetic procedures. Ask your dentist what’s possible.

Your Smile is Asymmetrical

In a perfect world, we’d have our top front teeth aligned with the bottom front teeth and perfectly centered within the face. Unfortunately, we’re all highly asymmetrical (You can find your own asymmetries by looking at your photos, but better yet, don’t look. You’ll forever be annoyed by what you find.) Fixing this issues isn’t always possible or realistic with just braces.

But here’s the good news. Slight asymmetries go unnoticed most of the time. When it comes to midlines, for example, the rule is that noone else (except you) will notice that the midline is shifted 3-4 millimetres to the side. However, this shift becomes noticeable after 5 milimiters.

If you’re unlucky enough to have a deviated septum and a nose that’s shifted in the other direction, the asymmetry is even more obvious. Tome Cruise, anyone?

Another type of asymmetry is canting. This is when the occlusal plane (the horizontal line of your teeth when you smile) is canted, or inclined to one side. This problem is also pretty difficult to correct but can be addressed with miniscrews or surgery.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do for adult asymmetries, unless you want to go through more years of orthodontic treatment and/or orthognathic surgery with no guaranteed results.

My advice? If your braces are off, and you see a slight shifted midline or small canting, but your bite is otherwise good and comfortable, try to make your peace with it. Correcting these issues in adults is so much more difficult than it seems, and elastics alone rarely work.

However, if you really want your midline or occlusal canting fixed, and there are other bite issues as well, get a second opinion and be open to all treatment plans. Some may include asymmetrical extractions to center the teeth.

How can you improve your smile?

In the end, if your teeth are “straight enough” so you don’t need to go through braces a second time, there are plenty of other ways to make them attractive and comfortable for you.

Teeth are too yellow? The dentist can get them whitened for you. After several appointments, you’ll look like a superstar, and slight imperfections won’t even register.

Hate the shape of your teeth? No problem, we can mask them with a bit of composite, or cover all your front teeth with veneers. Just promise me you’ll think long and hard about getting veneers, since the shaving of teeth is irreversible.

Think the edges of your teeth are wavy and uneven? Easy peasy. We’ll just take a soft disk and polish those enamel edges off. Shaving 1-2mm off your enamel won’t hurt your teeth, but will create a fantastic effect.

A gummy smile that’s making you self-conscious? Either embrace it and work on appreciating its youthfulness or go for gum surgery. It’s a very quick and clean laser removal of some of your gingival tissue revealing beautiful big teeth and less gum overall.

For all other issues such as flared teeth, bite issues, TMJ pain, asymmetries, and what looks like an incomplete treatment, it’s time to get a second opinion and perhaps another round of braces or aligners.

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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4 Comments

  1. Hi dr i got my braces removed yesterday after a total of 5 years of on and off, and i kid you not i have almost all the problems with the way my teeth looks which are mentioned above, i really want an answer or someone to guide meee please because according to my orthodontist and senior orthodontist they think everything is fine and nothing can be done!

    1. Adriana Sim, DMD Orthodontist says:

      Hi Saba, it’s impossible to tell without looking at your teeth. During these 5 years have you seen a different orthodontist to maybe get a second opinion? If you still think something doesn’t look right but don’t want to spend more time in braces, perhaps whitening your teeth, bonding or veneers might help to make them more appealing. Best of luck!

  2. What a patronizing, smug insensitive, arrogant Dr you are. No himan wants straight teeth. We want to feel comfortable and be attractive. The single reason for braces is to enhance your health and beauty. The position, angle, height of each tooth and the general arch shape has a huge affect on the facial structure and should enhance a persons face, support lips, eyes, ears, nose and if you have someone who is not happy it’s because you got it wrong.

    1. Adriana Sim, DMD Orthodontist says:

      Hi Susan. Thanks for pointing all this out. I certainly didn’t mean to be insensitive or patronising, and I rewrote certain parts of the article where I might have come across that way.
      A lot of people don’t like their teeth immediately, although fortunately, it’s not a widespread reaction. But for those who feel this way, I want to normalize this reaction, and help them figure out if it’s a fixable issue or not. Braces are not perfect, and neither are orthodontists.

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