Teeth shifting after braces 

Straightening your teeth can make a major impact on the appearance of your smile and the health of your mouth. But can your teeth move after braces? If you’ve had braces or are in the process of getting them, it’s important to know what to expect after your orthodontist removes them. 

Usually, it takes months or even years to push your pearly whites into place, and it takes time for them to get used to their new position. While it’s normal for teeth to shift after braces, it’s also essential to follow your orthodontist’s recommendations to keep your smile in place. This guide can help you understand why your teeth are moving and how to prevent them from doing so. 

Keep reading to find answers to some of the most common questions from the experts at Fredericksburg Orthodontics:

How do Braces move teeth?

While teeth may seem simple on the surface, they’re actually more complicated than you may realize. The little white rectangles you see when you smile in the mirror feature an intricate system of nerves, roots, bone and connective tissue. Below the gum line, there’s a series of tissue that connects each tooth to your jawbone. These membranes are flexible, allowing orthodontists to manipulate your teeth by slowly adding pressure.

Most often, orthodontists will use braces for straightening teeth. There are different types of braces, from metal to ceramic varieties. While they have slightly different appearances, they all have the same basic components — braces feature a system of brackets, archwires and bands to create tension that will move your teeth into alignment.

Invisalign® treatments do the same job but with a set of removable aligner trays. The clear plastic trays cover your teeth, creating tension and compression. The wearer swaps them out every few weeks for several months until their teeth have reached the desired position.

No matter which option you choose, it takes time and pressure to shift your teeth into place.

Will teeth move back after braces? Will teeth move back after braces?

Is it normal for teeth to shift after braces? The short answer is yes. It’s common for teeth to start shifting back into their original places after braces, and whether your top or bottom teeth shift more will depend on the unique structure of your mouth. Fortunately, when you near the end of your braces or aligner treatment, you and your orthodontist will take measures to ensure it doesn’t happen.

Why do teeth shift after braces?

The top of our teeth are hard and rigid, but they’re attached to flexible ligaments underneath. These ligaments are flexible enough to allow braces or aligners to push your teeth into place. However, that same flexibility means they can also shift afterward. When the straightening treatment ends, your teeth are no longer under pressure. 

As a result, the sudden lack of support can cause your teeth to shift and settle into their original placements. The degree of movement will vary depending on your teeth and which treatment you received. Other factors that contribute to reshaping your smile include: 

  • Chewing: Every time you take a bite, your teeth are under pressure, which can cause your teeth to move. 
  • Talking: To speak, you use your tongue and facial muscles, contributing to a changing smile.
  • Losing teeth: Losing a tooth creates a gap in your smile. Other teeth will often shift to fill in that extra space. 
  • Aging: As you age, your facial structure changes shape. This shift can reshape your jaw and the alignment of your teeth. 
  • Grinding teeth: Bruxism is a condition where you unconsciously clench or grind your teeth. This excessive pressure can wear down your smile and cause your teeth to shift.
  • Gum disease: Without proper oral hygiene, you can develop gingivitis and other forms of gum disease. If left untreated, your gums will loosen around your teeth, allowing them to shift around.

How fast do teeth shift after braces?

Straightening your teeth softens the ligaments that hold your teeth in place. These fibers remain loose after your braces are removed, and your teeth will start shifting almost immediately — though it won’t be apparent until later. After your treatment ends, you’ll likely receive a retainer to prevent your teeth from shifting. It’s essential to wear your retainer as directed to ensure you keep your newly straightened smile.

When do your teeth stop shifting after braces?

When you think of how fast teeth move with braces, it’s no wonder why they tend to shift afterward. Depending on your unique treatment plan, it may take up to three years to straighten your teeth — but that’s still a relatively short time period in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, after you end your treatment, you have time to ensure they stay that way, as teeth take several years to fully shift back into their old positions.

Most orthodontics recommend wearing retainers full-time for nine months to reduce post-braces teeth shifting. Eventually, your teeth will become more stable, but it’s natural to experience minor shifts over time. To maintain a perfectly aligned smile, most people are advised to wear their retainers part-time for the rest of their lives.

How to tell if your teeth are shifting after braces

Do you think your teeth have shifted? The easiest way to tell if your teeth are shifting is to smile in the mirror or compare your teeth to old photos. It’s essential to notice subtle changes so that you can take corrective action before it’s too late. Here are some other signs that your teeth could be moving

  • Retainers are tight: Because retainers are customized to fit the exact shape of your teeth, they shouldn’t feel tight. If they do, your teeth have shifted.
  • Teeth feel sensitive: When your teeth shift out of alignment, they often form small gaps and tight spaces where food can get stuck. Bacteria can collect in these nooks and crannies, leading to cavities and gum disease that can cause increased sensitivity and pain. 
  • Smile has changed: Do you notice any new gaps or overlapping teeth when you look in the mirror? If you believe that your smile looks different from usual, your teeth are shifting, and you should seek preventative measures.

How to prevent your teeth from shifting after braces

After years of wearing braces and resisting the urge to eat popcorn and chewy candy, you deserve a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime. The last thing you want is for your teeth to shift back into their original position. The following methods will help hold your teeth in place and prevent shifting: 

1. Removable retainers

Once your treatment ends, your orthodontist will recommend retainers for you to wear full-time for several months. These retainers are similar to aligners, as you can remove them whenever you want, like when you’re eating. After your teeth have had time to stabilize, you’ll only have to insert them while you sleep.

There are two main kinds of removable retainers to help with teeth shifting with braces:

  • Wire retainers: Some people with metal braces receive wire retainers. These retainers are made from a combination of plastic and wire materials. The plastic is molded to fit comfortably around the roof of your mouth and behind your bottom teeth. The wire wraps around the front of your teeth and a few molars to keep the retainers in place.
  • Clear retainers: Rather than being fitted behind your smile, clear retainers are sculpted like aligners to prevent shifting. This option is more discreet than wire retainers, as they’re made from a transparent plastic material. The trays fit seamlessly against your top and bottom teeth.

2. Fixed retainers

The biggest reason for teeth shifting after braces with retainers is that the patient doesn’t wear them properly. As an alternative, fixed or lingual retainers are ideal for people who are likely to lose or forget to wear their retainers. These retainers are permanently attached to prevent your front teeth from shifting. 

A fixed retainer is made from a thin wire that bonds to the inside of your upper and lower teeth. It must be checked regularly by an orthodontist to make sure that the wire stays attached properly. The most significant benefit of fixed retainers is that they’re completely invisible from the front so people can still see your new smile.

3. Mouthguards

While a mouthguard serves a completely different purpose than a retainer, it can also help keep your teeth in place after removing your braces. This gear creates a barrier around your teeth to protect them from impact during sports or grinding at night. 

If you participate in contact sports or any activities where you risk damaging your teeth, a mouthguard can help protect your smile. Similarly, those with bruxism can wear a mouthguard at night to protect their teeth. It’ll soften the impact of the grinding so that your teeth will stay in place. 

An orthodontist can help you choose the right mouthguard to protect your smile and keep your teeth in their new positions.

4. Oral hygiene 

If you want your teeth to stay in alignment, you have to keep them clean. Bacteria can penetrate your gums and weaken the tissue that holds your teeth in place. Regular brushing and flossing will keep your mouth fresh and clean to support the health of your teeth.

Be sure to do the following best practices to ensure you keep up with your oral hygiene:

  • Brush once in the morning and once at night
  • Floss once per day
  • Use mouthwash as directed
  • Schedule dental cleanings every six months

What to do if your teeth shift after braces

It’s normal for your teeth to shift slightly after braces — however, they should still maintain their alignment. If you notice minor changes in your smile, you might need to wear your retainers more often. Skipping wearing your retainers for only a few days could cause your teeth to shift. 

Do teeth shift back after braces? To move your teeth back into place, you can try wearing your retainers continuously for 24 hours, only removing them for a few minutes to eat or drink. If the shifting was minor, your teeth should return to normal after a few days. Generally, it’s not a significant issue if you forget to wear your retainer for a day or two.

If the problem persists or your retainers no longer fit, you should schedule an appointment with your orthodontist, as they might need to tighten your retainers to help keep your teeth in place. As long as you catch the issue early, your orthodontist should be able to find a simple solution.

How to fix shifted teeth after braces

Depending on the severity of the shifting, there are several ways orthodontists can realign your teeth after braces. In many cases, your orthodontist can fix the problem by adjusting your retainers or making new ones. More extreme scenarios might require additional time and effort to shift your teeth back into place. 

Here are a few options your orthodontist might recommend: 

  • Wearing your retainers full-time: If you were only wearing your retainers at night, your orthodontist might switch you back to full-time wear until your teeth fully stabilize. While it might feel discouraging to go back to full-time wear, doing so will help maintain the work you’ve already put in. 
  • A short round of Invisalign: If your teeth have shifted significantly, your retainers will be unable to correct the problem. As a result, your orthodontist may recommend a short round of Invisalign to move your teeth back into place. The clear aligners are removable and easy to use to help you get your smile back. 
  • Another treatment of braces: In severe cases, your teeth might shift back to their original position entirely without the proper use of retainers. In this scenario, your orthodontist will likely suggest braces to shift your teeth back where they belong. This solution usually takes less time than your original braces treatment.

Visit Fredericksburg Orthodontics to get the smile you’ve always wanted

Whether you’re thinking about getting braces or aligners or are close to ending your straightening treatment, you can trust Fredericksburg Orthodontics for all of your orthodontic treatments. Our team of oral health professionals can help align your smile and protect your teeth from shifting. 

We use innovative techniques and the latest technology to help each patient achieve the best results possible. Our experienced orthodontists provide outstanding care and are willing to answer any of your questions. Our team can correct underbites, overbites, spaces between teeth and many other orthodontic issues.

Fredericksburg Orthodontics provides the highest quality orthodontic treatment and retention to maintain your stunning smile for years to come. Now’s the perfect time to straighten your smile! Request a complimentary consultation today to get started.