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.

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

  1. Carol says:

    Ok.So my question is I got braces put on about 10 yrs ago and I have a permanent retainer behind my front teeth. I have noticed that I have a small gap between my teeth. What is the reason for this if I have a permanent retainer? Should I go see my orthodontist and if so what if anything can he do?

    • Retainers are the best thing we have to MINIMIZE changes in the positions of the teeth, but nothing can prevent all movement. If you have a change that is unacceptable, please return to your orthodontist to explore your options. Good luck!

  2. Ryan says:

    My braces were removed 9 years ago, and while I still use my retainer every night, I wake up with a nearly closed gap and by the end of the day my front two teeth are a mm or two apart. This has happened since the day my braces were taken off. Besides wearing a retainer every day for the rest of my life, can I get this fixed somehow? If I get a permanent retainer on the back, my teeth probably won’t be fully together. Can the permanent retainer be adjusted to close the gap fully? I’ve never had a problem with any of my other teeth except those two.

    • I see this over and over again in patients who started with a gap between their front teeth. It may mean that the tooth sizes are not matched (i.e. narrow uppers). The remedy to either have the upper teeth widened or a permanent retainer glued behind them. I tend to do the latter and keep the bonded retainer there indefinately

Leave a Comment

Back to Top

Your account login
Your rewards
Schedule an appointment with our talented orthodontist online