Having your braces removed seems like the final portion of your orthodontist treatment. Your teeth are straight and you’ll be taking good care of your new smile. Of course, you intend to wear your retainer every day. It’s a minor inconvenience after a lifetime of crooked teeth and all the treatment you’ve been through.
Unfortunately, even patients with the best intentions often discontinue retainer use within months of having their braces removed. Insufficient retainer use is the main reason for orthodontic relapse. This condition occurs when your teeth begin to move back toward their original position, as they were before treatment. It is estimated that more than 50% of patients experience some amount of relapse within 10 years after treatment. Fredericksburg Orthodontics wants you to understand the cause of relapse and your re-treatment options if it occurs.
Causes of relapse in orthodontics
Some people are blessed with teeth that grow in and remain straight throughout life. So, if your teeth are straightened with months (or years) of orthodontic care, they will remain straight as well, right?
Not necessarily. An orthodontic relapse occurs when your teeth shift out of position after treatment. When this change occurs shortly after treatment, the reason is usually that you’ve not been wearing your retainer as recommended. Braces apply constant pressure to teeth which slowly forces them into a new position. When braces are removed there is no outside force to prevent your teeth from shifting. Your retainer is used to help maintain pressure while your teeth settle into their new position.
Sometimes teeth shift many years after a patient has received orthodontic treatment. This movement may be caused by oral conditions related to aging. Missing teeth, gum disease, growing wisdom teeth, and Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders can cause otherwise healthy teeth to shift. The severity of orthodontic relapse can vary widely since everyone’s mouth is shaped differently. Generally, if there is more space along the gums, your teeth have more room to shift.
Treating orthodontic relapse
Fredericksburg Orthodontics’s Dr. Almy advised you to properly wear your retainers and you probably did at first. However, months have passed and suddenly your smile is different. You probably can’t even remember when the change began. The truth is, teeth move so slowly it’s impossible to notice the difference until they have shifted a great deal. If you are experiencing orthodontic relapse, it’s time to make an appointment with Dr. Almy. There are several ways to fix your shifting teeth.
- Retainers – If your braces were removed within the last two years and shifting is minimal, your retainers may be enough to coax them back into place. You can expect your retainers to feel tight when you first begin wearing them again. If you no longer have your retainers, visit an orthodontist to have a new set created.
- New retainers – If your retainers no longer fit, don’t panic. Dr. Almy can create a new set to help shift teeth back into place.
- Braces – If your teeth have shifted significantly, you might need to enter orthodontic treatment again. However, you could be facing a variety of simpler options than you had in the past. Many cases of orthodontic relapse can be treated with Invisalign®. Your treatment might also be significantly shorter than your first experience with braces.
The most important way to treat orthodontic relapse is to monitor your own progress. Ignoring the problem is a guaranteed way to make things worse. No patient wants to see a relapse after finally achieving a straight confident smile. However, there are options to recover from orthodontic relapse and straighten your smile for good.
If you are experiencing orthodontic relapse, your first step toward straighter teeth is an orthodontic consultation at Fredericksburg Orthodontics. Dr. Almy can determine how much your teeth have shifted and help you decide the best method for treatment. Ready to get started? Contact us for a complimentary consultation.