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!

NOTE: The author, Dr. Greg Jorgensen, is a board-certified orthodontist who is in the private practice of orthodontics in Rio Rancho, New Mexico (a suburb on the westside of Albuquerque). He was trained at BYU, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Iowa in the United States. Dr. Jorgensen’s 25 years of specialty practice and 10,000 finished cases qualify him an expert in two-phase treatment, extraction and non-extraction therapy, functional orthodontics, clear aligners (Invisalign), and multiple bracket systems (including conventional braces, Damon and other self-ligating brackets, Suresmile, and lingual braces). This blog for informational purposes only and is designed to help consumers understand currently accepted orthodontic concepts. It is not a venue for debating alternative treatment theories. Dr. Jorgensen is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of New Mexico. He cannot diagnose cases described in comments nor can he select treatment plans for readers. Because he has over 25,000 readers each month, it is impossible for him respond to all questions. Please read all of the comments associated with each article as most of the questions he receives each week have been asked and answered previously. The opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.

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

  1. Christina mcconnell says:

    Hi .I had my braces taken off about five months ago and when I went to go and get a cleaning my dentist said that my four bottom teeth are loose…and to talk to the orthodontist… She’s saying I need to see a periodontist.. I just feel like I’m getting the run around

    • I would see the periodontist first to make sure that your gums and bone are healthy. If they are, then it may be that your front teeth are hitting the top ones too hard. You’re not getting the “run-around,” your dentist is just trying to figure out what’s causing this for you.

  2. Michelle says:

    I have a question OK like one of my front tooth wants to come out of place and idk what to do my mother told me to keep on wearing the retainer that maybe my tooth can go back into place idk like can it and I had my brace’s removed like a year ago and now I see my front tooth shifting and plus my two big from teeth are going sideways

    • The best person to advise you on how to keep your teeth straight (or to re-align them if they’ve moved) would be the orthodontist that treated you. You should pay him a visit with your retainer ASAP.

  3. philomina says:

    is it good to wear retainers more than a year after taking my braces off.

  4. Zoey Gray says:

    I had braces for about 5 years and I got them taken off about a year ago. My front teeth are shifting and I’m still wearing retainers! It’s my two front teeth and there’s a gap starting between them. My teeth natural were very spaced out and I had a huge gap in between them before braces. Should I go in and get them tightened? I don’t want braces again but I want this space gone! I even resorted to wearing them during the day!

    • You should return to your orthodontist ASAP to 1) get your retainer adjusted, 2) get a new retainer, 3) evaluate if a bonded retainer might be placed to prevent the space appearing between your front teeth, and 4) determine if additional treatment would be beneficial.

  5. Slysmile says:

    Hi so I had my braces removed May 2015. I wear my retainers as prescribed night only since about July 2015. I did everything as I was told. My teeth were doing great then one night I had to work and forgot to wear my retainers. Ever since about 4 months ago my teeth shift a little during the day. Once I wear my retainer at night they go back. It’s very irritating. My retainers shouldnt be tight still and they are. I know I messed up one night but I put them in as soon as I got off work that morning.. what do I need to do to help stop the shifting?

    • There is nothing you can do to stop minor shifting of the teeth. There is no perfect retainer or method of keeping the body from changing as it ages. If you have retainers that fit, the best you can do is wear it as prescribed and stay in touch with your orthodontist.

  6. Maya says:

    I’ve gotten my braces off about two months ago and I have noticed that my two back teeth have moved. I’ve been wearing my retainer almost 24/7. Would I have to get braces again to fix this?

  7. Amanda says:

    Hi so I recently got braces 3 months ago, and before braces my teeth were almost perfectly straight and aligned, and i just had a large gap in between my front teeth. But now that i have braces, all of my canine teeth are lifting up and are slowly becoming crooked. i have visited my orthodontist but he said that it is the process of braces. i am a little bit concerned because i have had no teeth extractions, my gap is now closed but my teeth seems crowded.

  8. amber says:

    so when i first got my braces off about last year in may i got a retainer that you stick to the roof of your mouth but lost it so i had my clear retainer and didn wear it for a little while and then starting wearing it every other night and have now been wearing it every night for about 3-5 months. they are shifting and im just like why is this happening? my retainer being dirty has nothing to do with it right? its not a lot. my two front bottom teeth moved forward and i believe my top teeth are moving more towards the right. hope i explained good. help

    • You need to return to the doctor who provided the retainer originally and have your teeth and the retainer evaluated. Do it soon as the longer you wait the worse things will get.

  9. Anati says:

    Hi, Doctor, I hope you can help me out. I’ve been wearing my retainers, of course, but there was this one night I didn’t – the next night, I put them on again and in the morning when I took them off, my teeth felt really uncomfortable. It felt like there are teeth in the wrong places of my mouth. The uncomfortable feeling has lasted for a few days now. Will it go away? Should I inform my dentist? Thanks for your time and help, Doc!

    • I would recommend discussing any specific questions about your own teeth with your dentist. Having said that, please understand that all teeth will change over time no matter what you or your dentist do. Everything on the human body wrinkles and sags with time. Retainers are the best we have to MINIMIZE not prevent these changes.

  10. Ashley says:

    Hi, so not so long ago I got my upper jaw expander removed and my orthodontist gave me a removable retainer. I wore them as directed but I recently moved and couldn’t find my retainers, it’s been a month now after I finally found them. I didn’t wear my retainers for a whole month and when I put them back in they wouldn’t fit in my back teeth because they sort of shifted. I kept wearing them and after a few hours they adjusted to my teeth. Yesterday my right canine tooth fell out and now my retainers are loose and fall out. Should I contact my orthodontist or continue wear my retainers?

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