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.

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

  1. Nancy says:

    I am pre- dentistry student. I have braces for 18 months. My only problems were an overbite and gaps between teeth. They are now fixed. However a new problem showed up with braces. I now have a posterior open bite. I wonder why this was created with braces? My orthodontic seems to ignore it. I have another question, why the alignment of teeth changes from night to day? I mean when i sleep the posterior open bite disappears but by the first couple of hours in the morning it returns back again.
    Thank you!

    • It sounds like your “open bite” must not be very big if it changes that quickly. The contact you feel in the morning may be because the teeth extrude microscopically during the night if they are not in occlusion. During the day your bite may actually change the occlusion. Again, these are miniscule changes to the naked eye, but they feel huge to your teeth. Your orthodontist may feel like your teeth will settle after the braces are removed and the problem will resolve itself. Good luck!

  2. Nancy says:

    Is it possible to get permeant retainers on both jaws??

  3. Alyssa says:

    I got my braces off in May and it is July now… I wear my retainer ALL the time. I also kinda play with it in my mouth and it has become very lose to wear after I brush my teeth and wash my retainer then put it back in my mouth it doesn’t stay on here and when I talk it starts to come out… What should I do? … Does it cost money to get a new one? because I didn’t lose it… Help, Please! Thank you (:

    • Many retainers can be adjusted (tightened). It depends on the type you have. You should see your orthodontist soon if you can’t wear the one he provided originally.

  4. Julie says:

    I got my braces off on july 14 and they gave me the traditional plastic retainers. It hasn’t been long but the gap between my two front teeth has already opened. Its disappointing since ive had braces for 3 and a half years. I was planning on going back next month and asking about permanent retainers for my top teeth, would that be a good idea? Would it reclose the gap that has already opened on the top?

    • Retainers won’t close a gap, just keep it from opening once it has been closed. Placing a permanent retainer AFTER a gap appears will only hold the gap exactly where it is.

  5. Catherine says:

    I’ve had my braces off for about 10 years and I still wear my retainers every night because I grind my teeth. They are the old hard plastic and wire retainer. Today my hygienist told me to start wearing my retainers during the day because she thinks one tooth is shifting. Is this possible?

    • Not only is it possible, I’m shocked that you haven’t seen more movement in 10 years. The only thing that is constant over 10 years is change. Your teeth are going to change forever. Instead of just wearing your retainer more however, go back and have it checked by your orthodontist to make sure that it is still in good shape and able to prevent the movement you’re seeing.

  6. Shay says:

    I’ve had my Braxes off since April 7 2014. Today july 27th my brother accidently stepped on my upper retainer and chipped a little piece a wire was connected to. The piece was all the way in the back, so you can’t see it. Even though the little piece is broken, I cam put it back in my mouth wear the piece is supposed to be like it’s a whole piece. Do you think this is a huge deal since it’s in the back? It hasn’t been a full year. Can They glue it back? I’ve already contacted them. Do you think there will be a huge fee. I believe they told me if anything happens in a year, they’ll fix it. Np charge

    • If it is just a small piece, it will probably not be a big deal. You should have your orthodontist look at it. He may even be able to smooth the sharp edges where the little piece was lost.

  7. Sam says:

    The problem with my teeth is an open bite. My teeth aren’t jutting out in all crazy directions, but they are crowding, pushing my front teeth forward. It’s annoying to pronounce certain words, and smile cause it always feels different since they are moving all of the time. My orthodontist told me last time that they only fix open bites with braces. As you can imagine that was a total blow. But I just refuse to believe that so hopefully I can get the problem fixed without braces. I hope you can give me some advice!!

  8. I don’t know how to do it without braces either. What’s wrong with braces?

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