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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:
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: