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.

422 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.

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