Braces are fantastic at straightening misaligned teeth. However, once they’ve done their work and been removed, there’s no guarantee that your teeth will stay in their new position. Left to their own devices, there’s a good chance your teeth will move back to where they started – something known as orthodontic relapse.

Why do teeth move after braces?

Braces gently apply pressure to your teeth to move them in the desired direction. As your teeth straighten, the surrounding bone ‘remodels’ itself to support them in their new position. When your braces are removed, this new bone is unlikely to be as strong as your original bone. So, while it hardens, your teeth will be more at risk of orthodontic relapse.

Meanwhile, the periodontal ligaments, which connect your teeth to your jaw bone, can be stretched during orthodontic treatment. They then have a tendency to contract and pull your teeth back – a bit like a rubber band.

The stability of your bite after treatment can also impact your risk of orthodontic relapse. Certain malocclusions can increase your likelihood of relapse, for example open bites and diastemas. Moreover, growth-related changes can occur as you age, causing teeth to relapse.

How to prevent orthodontic relapse

Thankfully, orthodontic relapse is largely preventable with the help of retainers. Retainers are fixed or removable appliances, which have been designed to hold your teeth in their new position.

They’re especially important when your braces are first removed, while your bone and your periodontal ligaments adapt to your new smile. You’ll need to wear your retainers indefinitely to ensure your teeth don’t move. Retention is a lifelong commitment.

Fixed and removable retainers

Retainers are both discreet and convenient, so wearing them indefinitely isn’t a hardship. Your orthodontist may recommend removable retainers, fixed retainers – or both.

Removable retainers are usually clear, custom-made aligners, which fit over your teeth just like a thin mouthguard. Your orthodontist will advise you on when to wear your removable retainers. If they start to feel tight, it’s a sign that you’re probably not wearing them as often as you should be.

Fixed retainers consist of a metal wire, which is attached behind your upper and lower front teeth. It provides permanent protection against relapse and removes the risk of non-compliance. If you have a fixed retainer, it’s important to keep it clean. You’ll need to use special floss or interdental brushes to clean between your teeth.

If you lose or break your retainers, make an appointment to see your orthodontist as soon as you can. Otherwise, there’s a risk your teeth could move. If this happens, you may need to wear braces again to restraighten your teeth. Some orthodontists will give you the option of purchasing a second set of retainers, just in case.

We recommend that you always keep your retainers safe in a protective case when they’re not in your mouth to prevent them going astray or getting damaged.

Straightening teeth that have relapsed

If your teeth have moved very slightly, your retainers may be able to nudge them back in line. Otherwise, you might need braces again to restraighten your teeth.

If you do choose to wear braces again to tackle orthodontic relapse, your treatment should be much quicker this time. Sometimes it can take just a matter of weeks to restore your smile.

Lingual braces such as eBrace are an extremely discreet way to realign teeth. They attach to the back surfaces of your teeth, but just like a traditional fixed brace they offer excellent control and efficiency. eBrace Visual is a lingual brace that’s been specially designed to straighten the front teeth – making it a great choice for relapse cases.

After undergoing orthodontic treatment for a second time, you’ll want the results to last, so make sure you discuss retainers with your orthodontist. To find your nearest eBrace provider, click here.

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