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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 no solution to these complaints, 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 overly fond of their braces weeks before 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”.
In the end, most people get used to their new teeth. It’s okay to feel a little frazzled and sad. In this article, we’ll cover all the reasons why you may not like your teeth after braces. And who knows, I might even convince you to embrace them and love yourself in the process, too.
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. Many of those people went on to complain about their thin lips, big nose, chubby cheeks, short legs and so on.
Their teeth might have triggered this downward spiral, but teeth weren’t the main issue. I’d dare to say that low self-esteem was at the base of all these negative feelings.
So if you’re dealing with this and feel like you’re slipping into a dark place, I feel for you. I’m sorry you don’t like what you see in the mirror. But I can assure you you’re beautiful inside and out.
However, this is an informational braces blog, so let’s get a little practical and see if there’s any concrete evidence of your teeth not looking their best.
Your 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 may be 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.
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 aesthetic ideals that have been drilled into our brains since we were students. So it always comes as a surprise when patients perceive what we feel is a great result as “unnatural” and “weird”.
But again, don’t worry. Your teeth feel slippery and creepy the first few days, but I promise you’ll soon feel proud of your super-straight teeth. If not, you can always stop wearing your retainer. Just kidding, please don’t do that.
Your 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. And I don’t blame them, braces can make teeth look pretty uniform.
However, a little more communication with their orthodontist along the way could have prevented this issue. 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 patients appreciate these efforts, but a few of them were attached to what made them different and quirky. Okay, so your teeth now look a little boring. They’re still beautiful, and I assure you no one notices but you.
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 you hate it, 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. Of course, having a short, active upper lip doesn’t help, and neither does a downward tilting of the maxilla.
The best three things you can do are:
- Botox, to relax your upper lip and hide the gums. It’s not a permanent solution, but it helps.
- 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.
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. This imperfect oral hygiene, along with pigmented foods and drinks can add up over the years.
If you smoke, it makes teeth even worse, and coffee, black tea, and red wine don’t help either. The good news is that if your teeth are healthy and you don’t have any cavities underneath your braces, we can significantly whiten your teeth after your braces come off.
I suggest you wait a couple of weeks, if not a couple of months before you go in for a whitening appointment, or even veneers if the staining is bad. Remember, your enamel has been through a lot, especially during your braces removal appointment, so it’s best to allow it to recover.
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, I feel for you. Teeth that stick out are caused by either proclination or overjet, and they’re a legitimate concern.
My advice is not to let your orthodontist gaslight you into thinking everything is okay. Seek a second medical opinion, and if the issue is severe, ask for a partial or total refund from your doctor and seek treatment elsewhere.
However, if your orthodontist warned you that you needed extractions, and you refused, flared or proclined teeth may have been the only possible outcome.
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.
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, 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 (just study yourself in the mirror, or better yet, don’t. You’ll be forever obsessed with what you find).
Slight asymmetries go unnoticed. Like your midline shifted a couple of millimeters to the side. But when your teeth are shifted more than 3-4 milimiters to one side, it becomes noticeable. Tom Cruise, anyone? Didn’t notice? Google him to see what I mean.
If you’re unlucky enough to have a deviated septum and a nose that’s crooked in the other direction, the asymmetry is even more obvious.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do, unless you want to go through more years of orthodontic treatment and/or orthognathic surgery with no guaranteed results. My advice? Just make your peace with it.
How can you improve your smile?
In the end, if your teeth are “straight enough”, there are plenty of other ways to make them attractive.
Teeth are too yellow? Go to the dentist to get them whitened. After several appointments, you’ll look like a superstar (but hopefully not like Ross from Friends).
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 won’t let a dentist shave your teeth just because you feel like they’re not perfect.
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. It won’t hurt your teeth, I promise.
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 quick and clean laser removal of some of your gums, revealing beautiful big teeth and less gum overall.
As a last resort, you can wear braces again for a second or even a third time (or more, if you really like braces). But I have a feeling you won’t have to. Even if your results aren’t perfect, what’s important is that your teeth are healthy.
I hope I’ve convinced you to embrace your teeth, your face, and your body for what they are: beautiful and unique. You may feel disappointed for a while, but I promise you – it’s not worth it.
Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) 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: