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While it’s relatively easy to straighten teeth, keeping them aligned can be a challenge. You may have heard stories of friends who had orthodontic treatment, only for their teeth to move years or even just months later. Thankfully, though, ‘orthodontic relapse’ is preventable and with the correct aftercare you should be sporting a confident smile for many, many years.
Why do teeth move after braces?
During orthodontic treatment, periodontal fibres are stretched as your teeth straighten. This isn’t a problem when you have your braces on, but once they’re taken off the pressure from these elastic fibres can quickly cause your teeth to move.
Not everyone is affected by orthodontic relapse to the same extent. Some patients find that their teeth are quick to move, while others have relatively stable results. This can depend on several factors and some orthodontic problems can be more prone to relapse, for example midline diastemas (a gap between the front two teeth).
Another reason that teeth move following orthodontic treatment is the result of your face and jaw changing as you age. This can create a tendency for your teeth to shift forwards and crowd together. We used to think that wisdom teeth caused crooked teeth, but there is no robust evidence to support this theory and it’s now thought not to be the case.
How can we stop teeth from moving?
Braces are a big investment, so it’s not unreasonable to expect lasting results. Fortunately, there is a straightforward way to prevent teeth from moving and protect your new smile. Retainers are designed to hold your teeth in their newly straightened position. Most individuals who experience orthodontic relapse probably weren’t given retainers or eventually stopped wearing them.
There are two types of retainers available: fixed and removable. Your orthodontist is the best person to advise you on the best retainer for you. Sometimes they will recommend both options for the best possible prevention against relapse.
Fixed retainers, also known as bonded retainers, consist of a discreet metal wire that is permanently attached behind your front teeth – much like lingual braces. This wire connects each tooth, holding them in position.
Fixed retainers can be worn indefinitely but may need replacing from time to time. It’s important to keep both your teeth and retainers clean. You won’t be able to use regular floss, but interdental brushes, water flossers or air flossers are ideal for cleaning in between your teeth and around your retainer.
Removable retainers (pictured below) resemble clear, thin gumshields that are custom-made to closely fit your teeth and stop them from moving. You may need to wear your removable retainers full time at first, when your teeth are most at risk of relapse, then just at night or as instructed by your orthodontist.
Your removable retainers may need replacing periodically and it can be helpful to have a spare set ready in the case of an emergency. If you find that your retainers feel particularly tight, it could be a sign that your teeth are moving and you need to wear them more often. If you do lose or break your retainers, it’s important to contact your orthodontist as quickly as possible, before your teeth have the opportunity to relapse.
Retainers should be a lifelong commitment and without them there’s always the risk that your teeth could move – resulting in the need for more orthodontic treatment. Conveniently they’re very discreet and should easily become part of your everyday routine.
For more information on braces and retainers, find your nearest eBrace provider.