Dr. Greg Jorgensen
(505) 891-9440
1401 Barbara Loop SE
Rio Rancho, NM 87124

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

Help, I’m wearing my orthodontic retainer, but my teeth are moving!

Posted by Dr. Jorgensen on February 24th, 2011

iStock_000010219097XSmallThe most exciting day for an orthodontic patient is the day that their braces come off. Getting a smile that is as close to ideal as possible can be a long and involved process, and everyone, including the orthodontist, wants that smile to last the rest of the patient’s lifetime. But is that realistic?

Believe it or not, although the teeth may look great on the day the braces are removed, they will look better and be healthier a few months after the braces have come off. One reason for this is that the gum tissues, which suffer during treatment because brushing and flossing are so much more difficult, will actually get healthier after the braces are gone. A second reason is that with the wires and brackets off, the teeth can “settle” and come together more evenly and naturally. This settling is desirable on the side and back teeth, but not up front where these changes would be noticeable.

To keep the amount of movement up front to a minimum, all patients in our practice are given retainers the day their braces come off. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, there are many styles of orthodontic retainers, each with strengths and weaknesses. They all have one thing in common however. None of them can prevent all changes that occur as the mouth ages. Just as our eyesight, our hairline, and our figure changes with age, so do our teeth.

Changes in the alignment of your teeth will occur for a variety of reasons. First, if you are still growing, your genetic instructions (DNA) were not changed by our treatment and they still influence how you’ll “turn out.” Second, oral habits (where you rest your tongue or if you clench your teeth) will continue to put forces on the teeth that may cause them to move. And third, the normal wear that occurs when you use your teeth will require that your teeth adjust their positions so they can still come together. For these reasons you should expect that your teeth will continue to change after your braces come off.

So what is the take-home message? If you want to keep the natural changes that occur to a minimum, wear your retainers daily as prescribed for as long as you want your teeth to stay straight. You will need to accept some natural change, but there is no reason why your teeth can’t continue looking awesome for the rest of your life!

Dr. Greg Jorgensen is a board certified orthodontist providing braces and Invisalign to children, teenagers, and adults in Rio Rancho, New Mexico and the Albuquerque Westside.

434 comments so far in response to “Help, I’m wearing my orthodontic retainer, but my teeth are moving!”

  1. Chelsea says:

    I’m starting to get a space between my two front teeth that wasn’t there before I had my braces I’ve had them off for almost 6 months. I wear my retainers daily. It’s worrying me. what could I do to fix it?

    • The only thing you can do to diagnose and fix this problem is return to your orthodontist. He may need to adjust or replace your current retainer, bond a permanent retainer to hold the space closed, or even put you back in brackets for a few more months.

  2. Cool Hiu says:

    I haven’t worn my retainers for about a month and a half due to me losing them. I finally found them and when i tried to put them on the bottom one was tight (as i predicted) but my top one is loose. If I place it on my teeth they dont feel tight. Is this a result of my top teeth shifted so much so that the top half of my retainer doesn’t fit anymore? Is there anyway to solve this problem without going back to braces?

    • When teeth move, the retainers will usually feel tighter. If your lower one feels tight, it means that the bottom teeth have shifted. You should try and wear it fulltime for a week or two and see if the teeth move back and the retainer starts fitting better. If not, get back in and see your orthodontist. The loose upper one is less cause for concern, but I’d have him check that one too.

  3. Derrick says:


    Prior to treatment I had a bad overbite. My uppers and lowers were both just flared outward. I went and got braces and stayed in treatment for 5 years. As of March of this year my treatment was finally done. For the first 5 months my teeth were perfect, but around the second week of august I noticed my retainers didn’t fit the same way anymore and my profile was gradually relapsing back to the way it was, Somehow all the while my teeth remained perfect. I wore my retainers all the time, only taking them off to eat and brush. I told my orthodontists about it and all she said was my teeth looked fine and she just brushed off the issue.

    About a week ago I got a new retainer made and a few days afterwards I noticed that it made my teeth shift all the way back to the overbite position I had. I took them out immediately and I watched my teeth as they sprung back to where they were before. I popped in my old retainers and they too made my teeth relapse into the overbite until I took them out.

    Due to this strange issue, I cant wear my retainers. Either way it goes I lose because if I wear them they relapse and now that I cant wear them, they are definitely relapsing but only gradually.

    The orthodontics office had been closed the past few days and will reopen after labor day. I don’t know what to do or what was causing this issue. Any idea?

  4. Crystal says:

    So my bottom retainer seems to be fitting tighter then it did when I got my braces off 5 years ago . One tooth has shifted back , but I’m wondering why it did, if I wear my retainer every night !

    • Everything in your body changes with age. Your hair gets thinner, your face wrinkles, etc. The best doctors can do is manage the aging process. With age your teeth wear, the bite deepens, and there are forces from eating, clenching, etc, that naturally move the teeth. Even the best retainers only contain and slow change. You may want to get a new retainer if it has been 5 years. Sometimes adjustments can be made to the new retainers to reverse some changes.

  5. Matthew says:


    So I had a gap between my two front teeth prior to wearing braces for the last two years. I asked my orthodontist whether she could close my gap several times throughout the process. She told me that she’s done this numerous times and that I’m worrying too much. I was instructed to undergo a frenectomy before the braces were removed, which I did. I completed treatment and received my retainers in April of this year. My teeth were straight and I was very excited to start the second phase of the process. While I was in the X-Ray room waiting for the orthodontist, I noticed the X-Rays of my teeth on the wall, which depicted a hairline gap between my two front teeth. Worried that the money and time I spent trying to fix my teeth, I asked my ortho if I should be worried about it. She said she’d handle it. Fast forward 6 months, I wear my retainer for more than 22hrs/day, but it notice that whenever I have my retainer off for roughly 6-8hrs, the hairline gap begins to form. I was told that I’d have to wear my retainer for 24hrs a day for the next year, but I’m concerned that my gap will come back afterwards. I can’t even go 8hrs without seeing change in my front teeth after weeks of meticulous use. What should I do? Is this normal?



  6. Arianna says:

    I had permanent retainers placed before my study abroad trip. Three weeks after getting them put on, I notice that one of the glue has come off. I didn’t think anything of it because my teeth looked fine until yesterday. A gap is starting to form between the central indicator and the lateral indicator. I am unsure why the gap is forming here because the glue came off on the other side of my teeth. I don’t know what to do because my insurance isn’t covered overseas.

    • The glue and wire hold all the teeth together. When some glue comes off, all of the teeth in that system are affected. You should see an orthodontist and get the glue replaced even if your insurance doesn’t cover it. The longer you wait the worse it will get.

  7. Lucas says:

    I got my braces off last November. Due to what they called “dwarf teeth” for 2 of my side teeth, I needed to get bondings on the teeth after my braces to fill the rest of the gap they said. Then, after wearing my retainer, the tooth to the left of my 2 front teeth “settled” they said, so then they had to bond that one too. Now, I only forgot to wear my retainer one night since then and there is a small sliver/gap between my 2 front teeth. I am going to wear my retainer 24/7 until It is gone, but is this normal. And not to be rude, but is this orthodontist right about everything? Sometimes I second guess and worry that my 2 front teeth will also just “settle” once I get older. I am 20 now. The only reason I can think as to why my 2 front teeth would settle away from each other is because the orthodontist shaved the middle of my two front teeth, and then pulled the teeth together over a few weeks of wearing a wire around the brackets or something like that. Any thoughts?

    Thank you!

    • The upper laterals are the least stable teeth in the mouth and the most susceptible to “settling.” They are also often “pegged” or skinny and gaps frequently develop next to them. Your orthodontist has done nothing wrong. This is common and is just a problem with the lateral incisors.

  8. Ira McCracken says:

    One of my tooth were a little crooked I went to the orthodontist, and they gave me a clear tray, kind of like the invisalign. After a couple of months it went straight again because I had braces at first but my permanent retainer broke, so the tooth shifted, but now its straight. I now currently have permanent retainers where on top and bottom of my teeth but the tooth looks like its shifting again, can I wear my last clear tray I still have while having a permanent retainer? Thanks

    • If the clear aligner impression was taken before your permanent retainer was bonded in, the clear aligner won’t fit. You’ll need to see your orthodontist again for a new aligner.

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