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Orthodontic Relapse: Why It Happens And What You Can Do About It

28 Nov 2016

It’s the best day of your orthodontic treatment, the day your braces finally come off! You are provided with your new retainers and instructions on how to wear and take care of them. Off you go with good intentions of wearing them every…single…day. Initially you make good on your word, every night you faithfully brush and floss your beautiful teeth and pop your retainer in. Months pass and you suddenly realize you cannot remember the last time you wore your retainer, in fact you aren’t entirely sure where your retainer is.

Time goes on and life happens, a call to your orthodontist to make an appointment keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the to do list. One day you find yourself sliding your tongue across your teeth and something feels a bit off. You look in the mirror and gasp! How did that happen? Your teeth have shifted. This is the moment of panic in which you finally put a call in to your orthodontist.

Orthodontic relapse is the reason why we have follow up appointments. We like to see our patients 2 months, 6 months and finally 18 months following your braces being removed. It is also the reason why we recommend lifelong wear of your retainers. Retainer wear should be daily or after some time at least a couple of days a week. Most often we glue in a permanent wire retainer on the lower teeth as the lower teeth have a higher tendency to shift. If your retainers feel tight when you pop them in, that is usually a sign that you need to be wearing them more frequently.

Hope is not lost though, there are a few options when you encounter post orthodontic shifting.

1) Monitoring

If there is no damage to your retainers and you have been wearing them properly and only minor shifting is present you can choose to leave things as they are and monitor for any further shifting. Your family dentist should be also be able to help you monitor for any increased shifting at your regular check up appointments.

2) Have new retainers made

Sometimes minor tooth movements can be corrected with removable retainers.

3) Re-treatment

When the relapse is significant enough we may recommend orthodontic re-treatment. This could include your traditional metal braces, clear braces or even Invisalign. We would need to meet with you to discuss all of your options.

It is important to note that not all shifting is due to improper wear or damage to retainers. Some “settling” of the teeth once the braces are removed can and should be expected.

The most important thing to take away from this is that you should be wearing your removable retainers and monitoring your permanent wire retainers for any damage. As soon as you misplace or damage a retainer please call to have it replaced or repaired.

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