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Getting Your Braces Off
By Stephen Yang, DMD, MS
Board Certified Orthodontist
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You have waited for years, constantly nagging your orthodontist to remove your braces. Finally one day he tells you that you are finally going to get your braces off! You are so happy! But then you wonder how your orthodontist will remove your braces. Will it hurt? Will you need retainers?

Removing your orthodontic braces is actually much easier and faster than putting them on. To remove your braces, your orthodontist will gently squeeze each individual bracket with a special plier in order to separate the bracket from the tooth. The bracket usually comes off in one piece, though some clear or ceramic braces are made to break as they separate from the tooth. If you have bands that fit around individual teeth, your orthodontist will use a special plier to gently remove the band. Sometimes the bands will come off easily, but other times the cement that holds the band to the tooth is still very strong so you may feel some pressure when your orthodontist removes the band. Generally, the process of removing braces is not painful and will frequently be done in just two to five minutes.

After your braces are removed there will be some leftover cement or glue on your teeth. The orthodontist may scrape away large pieces of cement with a special plier. Then a polishing handpiece will be used to remove the old cement without damaging your teeth. Depending on the type of handpiece your orthodontist uses and how sensitive your teeth are, your may experience a little sensitivity as the cement or glue is being removed. Most patients do not experience any sensitivity. Removing the cement or glue is typically done in under five minutes.

To keep your teeth straight, your orthodontist will have you wear some kind of orthodontic retainer after your braces are removed. You usually receive your retainers at the same visit that you get your braces off. There are different kinds of retainers used by orthodontists. There are “invisible” or Invisalign-type retainers, Hawley-type retainers, and bonded retainers. Each type has its pros and cons. The type of retainer you get will depend in part in how your teeth looked before braces and in part on your orthodontist’s preference on which type of retainer he feels most comfortable using. Make sure you wear your orthodontic retainers as directed or else your teeth may shift and you may have crooked teeth again!

At the appointment that your braces are removed, your orthodontist will likely take final records which may include photos, impressions for study models, and/or X-rays of your face and teeth. Orthodontic offices that do not take records in-house may refer you to have final records done by a specialty lab. “Why do I need final records?” you may ask? Final records are needed to help your orthodontist evaluate how successful your treatment was. Often the X-rays can help your orthodontist assess the health of your roots and decide if your wisdom teeth need to be extracted.

That’s pretty much it for removing your braces. Your orthodontist will probably recommend that you go see your dentist to have your teeth cleaned and checked for cavities. You will return to see your orthodontist periodically to check your retainers.

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