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.

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

  1. Chen says:

    Hi i want to get braces for my teeth. my uncle after his braces he had to wear retainer and also something in his teeth.at the bottom and back of his teeth. its like the braces. and do everyone need to wear that after the braces? or its just my uncle?

  2. Alex says:

    I just got my braces off in November, wore retainer till early December became lazy for about 3 weeks and would only wear it for probably 12 hours a day.. because actively wearing it again before the new year started thinking they would shift back as a small gap started to form.. it’s less than a mm but very noticeable up close in the mirror to me what should I do

  3. Mary says:

    It’s been 3 days since I’ve got my braces off and my dentist still hasn’t given my retainers. In this two daya my top teeth are very loose and theres alot of tensıon. My teeth r starting to overlap eachother. I have contacted öy dentist and she said it was totally normal. Would my retainer fix the overlapping it has caused within the two days my braces were off. I’m also getting invisalgn because my ortho said that the braces did all it can and ur teeth r now going to be treated with invisalign. Im still no convinced. Does invisalign really work? I heard bas reviews about it? Plz help

    • First, your teeth are going to shift if your braces are gone and you don’t have a retainer. If you are getting Invisalign now however, it can realign the slight movements that may be occurring.

  4. Cassie says:

    Hi, I had braces for over two years and got them off a little over a year ago. For the first seven months I wore my retainer round the clock, (first four a standard clear one, and then after that a clear SureSmile retainer). After those seven months I wore it every night. However, my SureSmile retainer broke a month or so ago, and even a little time before that, one of my two front teeth (a problem tooth before I had braces) has started to shift back to it’s original position it was in before I had braces. I’m not really sure what to do, because even with both retainers my tooth still shifted and I’m feeling really upset and insecure again.

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