When will I get my braces off?’, ‘Does wearing elastics mean I’m almost finished?

These are all common questions for adults and children undergoing brace treatment, and although every case is different there are stages of treatment that virtually every patient will go through before they have their braces removed.

Generally treatment can be split in to two phases; the active phase (the bit with braces) and the retention phase (the easy but important bit).

During the active part of your treatment with the braces or Invisalign in place a number of things will be happening to your teeth (depending on the problem this will vary of course). These movements include:

  • Alignment: Straightening the teeth onto a horseshoe shaped wire
  • Coordination: Making sure the upper and lower teeth are the same width and will bite correctly
  • Correction of the ‘overbite’ and ‘overjet’: This refers to the horizontal and vertical overlap of the front teeth. If the front teeth are too prominent then overjet reduction is particularly important. Equally if the bite of the front teeth is very deep, then overbite reduction is essential to improve the end result and help prevent problems late.
  • Space closure and correction of the bite: This means what it says, the closure of any gaps and shifting the back teeth into the right positions. You may need to wear elastics that you change yourself at this stage.
  • Finishing and detailing: Making sure all those little things are just right and your braces are absolutely ready to be taken off. If you are having Invisalign this stage is known as a refinement.

What are the bits on the brace called and what do they do?

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  • Brackets

The brackets fitted to each tooth are precision designed and manufactured to accommodate a range of wires throughout your treatment and to help guide the teeth into their end position. Each bracket has a ‘prescription’ for each tooth meaning they must be stuck on carefully in order to achieve the best result. Attaching the brackets is simple and painless (no injections!), using a glue to attach them to the surface of the teeth.

  • Wires

The wires used during orthodontic treatment are fitted into a slot in the brackets and held in place with a small elastic loop or metal clip. The wire than applies a force to the teeth to move them in to the correct position. During space closure accessories such as elastic ‘power-chain’ can be used to slide the teeth along the wire to close the space – hence train-tracks (although we don’t like that term!).

The initial wires used during your brace treatment are thin and gentle in order to achieve initial alignment and correct crowding and rotations (teeth which are crooked or twisted). It’s often during this phase of treatment where you will see the biggest changes in your smile.

At most appointments you will have the wires on your braces changed. As you continue with your brace treatment you will notice that the wires used become thicker and more rectangular in shape. This is because these rectangular wires fit more snuggly in to the slot in the brackets, progressively moving the teeth in to their final position.

  • Accessories

At almost any stage of treatment you may have other small attachments put on the brace. These may include small posts or loops on the wires, buttons on the teeth or power-chains. These are all part of moving or guiding the teeth onto the wire and into the correct positions.

  • Elastics

Usually worn for between 2 and 6 months, patient-elastics guide the teeth in to the best possible biting position and help achieve the best possible result in the quickest time. Usually worn in the second half of treatment they can be worn throughout (especially with Invisalign).

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Removing the braces – the best bit!

Patients often worry that this is going to be unpleasant. It is actually very straightforward as the braces simply lift off the teeth with a gentle squeeze. The glue is then polished away to leave the natural surface of the teeth before impressions are taken to make the retainer.

The other question that is often asked is whether there will be marks on the teeth? Providing you have looked after the braces and your teeth as recommended the answer is a simple ‘no’. The problem only occurs in those patients who do not brush correctly or enough and / or have too many sugary drinks or snacks. You can read more about looking after your braces here.

Want to see how it all works? This time lapse video shows exactly what happens during treatment!


The retention phase is the easiest but most important bit. We will publish our next blog post on this soon … In the mean time our patient information leaflets contain lots of information and FAQ’s!