Your Teeth Aren’t Straight After Braces? What to Do About It

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There’s nothing worse than going through years of orthodontic treatment and then feeling bitter because your teeth still aren’t straight. Braces may have limitations, but at the very least you should have your front teeth straight. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and here’s why.

Some teeth may not be perfectly straight after braces because of insufficient fine-tuning, also called finishing, or because of a minor relapse right after getting braces off. Sometimes, the teeth might be correctly positioned, and the patient may have unrealistic expectations.

As a general rule, orthodontists don’t take braces off before their patients are fully satisfied, or at least before reaching a healthy compromise. If your orthodontist never asked you what you thought before taking your braces off – first of all, I’m sorry, and secondly, you should voice your concerns and ask for a second opinion.

So, to make sure that what you’re seeing is not just in your head, let’s go into more detail and discuss the types of crooked teeth you might notice after taking your braces off.

Why your teeth aren’t straight after braces

I really hope you’re reading this before it’s time for your braces to come off, because you can catch a few of these issues by simply looking in the mirror or taking a few pictures of your teeth.

I actually highly recommend that you snap a few photos of your teeth from multiple angles: front, left and right side, and of your top and down dental arches with your head tilting up and down.

Here’s what you might notice:

  • A step in your teeth. Look and the margins of your incisors. Not all four of them are supposed to be perfectly aligned, but they do need to be aligned in pairs. So, the left central incisor needs to be at the same level with the right central incisor. The same goes for lateral incisors, canines and so on. But focus primarily on your front teeth.
  • Teeth that are improperly inclined. Does it seem to you like an incisor is tilting forward or backward, although it’s apparently straight? Your not imagining things, this tilting is called torque, and it’s one of the dimensions we work on during orthodontic treatment.
  • A tooth that’s pushed in front of or behind its neighbors. We’re talking about minute differences here, so don’t imagine a tooth that’s seriously crooked, but sometimes this happens. Causes may include excess bonding material underneath the bracket or a weird shape of the tooth, causing it not to be aligned.
  • Crooked gingival margins. Your teeth are straight, but they look crooked because of uneven gums. Fortunately, this is an easy fix through minor gum surgery, and many orthodontists address gum tissue after taking braces off.
  • Uneven teeth edges. Your teeth are straight, but some incisor edges seem like they’re slanting or ar irregular, making your teeth look crooked. At the end of treatment, orthodontists reshape the enamel of multiple teeth to even them out as much as possible. This helps give the impression of perfectly straight teeth. It’s not too late to do this, even long after taking braces off.
  • Midline discrepancy. Check your midline in relation with your face. Typically, deviations smaller than 2-3 mm are difficult to notice by the untrained eye. But anything larger than 4 mm and non-professionals start noticing that something is off. Midline shifting is one of the most difficult things to treat.

So why do some of these issues occur, and is your orthodontist always to blame? Here’s what typically happens:

Your orthodontist isn’t spending enough time in the finishing phase

The finishing phase is super important. It’s where the magic happens, and most orthodontists spend at least 3 months fine-tuning results until all teeth are in the perfect positions and looking great. Some doctors go as far as spending 6 months in this phase.

This is when your ortho should fix problems like steps in your teeth by doing step bends in your wire. They’ll use accessories and bends to fix flaring and teeth lagging behind. They’ll pay attention to your gingival margins and see if you need bracket repositioning. And once your braces come off, they’ll pay extra attention to edges and enamel reshaping.

When both the orthodontist and patient are satisfied, braces come off. Your doctor will never take braces off without your consent, so if this happens to you, it should be a red flag.

You may have unrealistic expectations

Some patients are under the impression that their incisors should all be at the same level. It’s a common mistake for someone who’s untrained in all the rules that make a smile great.

Having a straight line in your incisors can make you look older and hide your teeth underneath your lip, which is not advisable. Instead, we like to bring the central incisors a little lower, so that the smile line becomes an arc that follows the lip contour.

Other times, patients point out to what it feels like is a crooked tooth, but their orthodontist sees nothing there. It’s happened to me, and I didn’t pay much attention to it. It might just be that your orthodontist thinks your teeth are “good enough”.

If you feel like you’re right, keep insisting until your orthodontist acknowledges you. Better yet, ask for professional pictures – the camera doesn’t lie.

Tooth anatomy might be to blame

Some teeth will never get straight no matter what we do. Peg-shaped laterals, teeth with weird shapes and grooves in their surface – not only are they difficult to bond correctly, but we can’t even tell what this ‘correctly’ means.

So if your braces come off and those misshapen teeth look uneven, your orthodontist should have a plan in place. Direct bonding and building up those teeth with composite is usually the fastest and cheapest solution, and it can be done as soon as your braces are off.

You can also go for veneers or crowns if you need even more coverage.

Your teeth may relapse slightly in a matter of days

Here’s the harsh truth about braces: we can’t keep teeth perfectly straight forever, even with retainers. Teeth will shift and most patients are okay with those minor changes. If you’re not happy with that minor relapse, then you can get braces again, but it’s often best to just adjust your expectations.

Sometimes, that relapse can occur before getting retainers. While most orthodontists deliver retainers as soon as possible after taking braces off, it takes some doctors over 10 days to offer those retainers.

Let me tell you, a lot can happen in 10 days with teeth that have been in braces and now have zero support. They will move to wherever it feels stable. In fact, teeth can move in less than a week, but typically come back to their positions once you wear your retainers.

If you get your retainers and they’re hard to place or don’t even fit anymore, you may need new retainers, and the relapse becomes permanent. Negligence or bad luck? You decide, and you can ask for your doctor to rectify the situation.

Your teeth aren’t straight after years in braces. What to do next?

If your braces are already off and you’re unsatisfied, you can get braces bonded again. Sometimes, partial braces are enough to correct minor issues in your front teeth. You won’t wear them for long, and they’re cheaper too. Or you could go for aligners and wear a few trays until the problem is corrected.

Some orthodontists may even offer partial braces or a couple of aligners for free if they feel like there’s been a misunderstanding, or just to make their patients happier. I’ve certainly done this a few times.

I strongly suggest you go to a different orthodontist if you’ve been unsatisfied with the first one. Brackets should never come off without the patient’s consent. I usually spend multiple appointments making sure my patient understands everything and is ready for his or her braces to come off. There’s no hurry.

So if you’re reading this and still have your braces on, but your orthodontist insists on taking them off, really analyze your smile, your bite, your face, everything. If you’re still on the fence about ending treatment, you probably have a good reason. Seek a second opinion if you must.


I really hope you get the smile you deserve and that your orthodontist straightens your teeth as much as possible. But in the end, you have to remember we’re human and imperfect. Some things we just can’t correct and we have to know when to stop treatment. Taking braces off should be a happy event, and I wish that for you.

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:

  • The only electric toothbrush you’ll ever need for your braces. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones.
  • The most popular water flosser with my braces patients. If you can, choose a countertop model that can hold a lot of water. You’ll need it, and your gums will thank you.
  • This beast of a blender to create ice cold smoothies and silky soups. Sipping on something cold is a natural pain reliever, and soft foods are perfect for those tough weeks ahead.

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  1. Is that the final result in the “finishing phase in braces” picture?

    My braces are coming off in three weeks.

    My teeth look very similar to that picture, where one of the top front teeth is slightly angled in front of the other one.

    I’m wondering if that is normal?


  2. Adriana Sim, DMD Orthodontist says:

    Hi David,
    If you mean the cover illustration, then no, teeth aren’t supposed to look uneven at the end, unless they have different shapes. This angling is called “torque” and it’s fixed with specific bends. Three weeks will probably not fix it. If you’re not satisfied, talk to your orthodontist so they can spend a little more time working on it.
    If, however, it’s the tooth’s shape, then it’s a bit harder to make it look perfect. A photo from above the teeth can help the orthodontist figure out if it’s a torque issue.

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