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

The 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.

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

  1. Stephanie says:

    Hey Dr,
    I had my braces for a little over a year and I have my clear plastic retainer. I mainly have two problems.
    1)Sometimes when I take my retainer out there is blood on it from my gums,not a lot,barely any but should I be worried?
    2)My front two teeth used to be straight before my braces came off and when I first started wearing my retainer my teeth were straight but now one of my big teeth at the front is sore and has shifted a lot,the same with the first four on the top row.Will my orthodontist fix it when I got back in September? I not know what to do here,seriously worried after all the pain of braces u went through.

  2. Jane says:

    Hi, I got my braces removed two months ago about a year and a half of wearing them. My Hawley retainers were given the day after they were out. I wear them as prescribed, 24 hours a day except for eating and brushing, yet I noticed a tooth on my upper set of teeth were shifting! I had them tightened about a month ago because the gap on my lower set were returning even though I wear them as I’ve been told. I sometimes toy with my retainers using my tongue. Does it loosen them? Should I get them tightened again? I’m really afraid that my dentist will recommend me to get my braces back because it costs a fortune here in the Philippines. Is getting them back and option?

    • Great question about loosening your retainer. Playing with a retainer with your tongue, flipping it in and out, or even removing it wrong can make your retainer loose. You need to see your orthodontist to have yours tightened if you suspect it isn’t tight enough to do its job.

  3. Shannon says:

    Hi there,

    I got my braces taken off on Monday, they fixed spaces between my teeth and an overbite, I’ve been wearing my retainer 24/7 except when I eat and brush my teeth, but my gap between my front teeth is coming back already. I’m highly upset and plan to phone tomorrow but did I waste thousands on something that can’t be fixed?!

  4. casey says:

    Hi. I got my braces off in march. It is now july. My ortho waited a week to give me essex retainers after removing my braces which gave my teeth time to separate a little since the brackets left some space. Anyways I was told to wear my retainers full time which I do and I take care of them very well. I only take them out to eat and brush my teeth. But I’m noticing my teeth are spacing out and I’m getting gaps when before I even had braces only my 2 front upper teeth were gapped. I don’t see why my teeth are moving if I am doing exactly what I am instructed to do. What would you recommend your patient in this situation? I’m afraid I will have to have braces all over again

    • Your teeth will always move a little bit for the rest of your life. If your current retainer is not giving you the results you want, ask your doctor if there is anything better for your particular case.

  5. Spoorthy says:

    Hey I’ve gotten my braces taken out about 3 years ago and my orthodontist gave me a retainer to wear and I’ve worn it every night since he gave it to me but in the past year I’ve only been wearing it like once a week and now I’ve started to feel this slight pain in one of my teeth and it feels like it’s shifting so if i start wearing it now consistently every night will it stop shifting?
    I also got my wisdom teeth removed recently and can i wear my retainer with my wisdom teeth still healing?

    • Your teeth are going to move at least a little for the rest of your life. The only thing retainers can do is minimize the change. You should wear your retainers as much as possible during the healing of wisdom tooth removal, but if that is not possible, call your orthodontist who knows your mouth best for other possible ideas during healing.

  6. Sian says:

    I got my braces off in march and I’ve already got one wisdom teeth growing at the top and now ones coming through the bottom and my retainer is getting tighter because of it and I’m started to get worried because your meant to wear your retainer for six months-to a year and it’s only been four months should I tell somone? Advice would be much appreciated

    • Sometimes the retainers need to be adjusted or replaced when wisdom teeth come in. If you can’t wear yours for any reason, you need to consult with your orthodontist.

  7. Valery says:

    I lost my retainer 2 months ago, means that I need put braces again? Because my front teeth are separating Please I need Advice

  8. 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!!

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

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