AIM: This study was undertaken to assess pre- and post-treatment upper and lower arch dimensions, and changes occurring in those dimensions, during orthodontic treatment without premolar extractions, when finishing wires of a particular material, size and arch form had been used. METHODS: The records of 58 patients (31 male and 27 female) with a mean age of 13.52 (±1.60) years were selected for this study, with ethics approval gained from the Departmental Human Ethics Advisory Group of the University of Melbourne (DHEAG no: 1033997.1). All patients had been treated with fixed appliances (0.018 inch, pre-adjusted edgewise) in the early permanent dentition, without premolar extractions, by one experienced orthodontist. Pre- and post-treatment upper and lower arch dimensions were measured from study casts. Correlation coefficients were calculated between these measurements as well as pretreatment cast and vertical cephalometric measurements, gender and the amount of crowding that had been relieved. RESULTS: Despite the use of finishing archwires of the same material, size and arch form (0.016 x 0.022 inch, heat-treated cobalt-chromium), there was considerable variation in dimensional changes that occurred during treatment within the total sample and its various subgroups, and in the final arch dimensions. All arch width changes were found to be strongly correlated with the amount of pretreatment crowding. Post-treatment arch dimensions and changes in those dimensions were also strongly correlated with pretreatment dimensions, suggesting that the final post-treatment arch dimensions were significantly influenced by other factors rather than simply the material, size and arch form of the finishing wires. In this treated sample, no statistically significant differences were found in the resultant arch widths and arch width changes occurring in the different vertical pattern sub-groups. CONCLUSION: The placement of finishing wires of a particular material, size and arch form is unlikely to result in exactly matching end-of-treatment arch forms and dimensions in all orthodontic patients. Instead, whether using a 0.018 or a 0.022 inch slot system, the clinician should expect considerable individual variation in final arch form and dimension, despite the placement of apparently very similar wires. The main determinants of final arch form and dimension appear to be the original muscular and occlusally-related arch form and dimension and the amount of crowding to be relieved. Final arch forms and dimensional changes with treatment are unlikely to be directly related to patient gender, age or underlying vertical pattern. The findings indicate that clinicians must decide whether they will accept the considerable lateral and antero-posterior expansion that is likely to occur when crowding is to be relieved in the permanent dentition without premolar extractions.