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.

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

  1. Mustafa says:

    I feel a space between my retainer and the roof of my mouth. I can even suck the air and get them touch momentarily. Is this normal or I should ask my orthodontist fix it for me. Also, the front wire doesn’t feel very tight on my front teeth. Is that OK?

    • Retainers sometimes don’t fit perfectly against the roof of the mouth. This variation may be from the impression, the plaster model, the acrylic used to make the retainer, or even a change in your tissues since the impression. Your doctor can tell you if it fits well enough to be effective. The front wire is adjustable, so ask for it to be tightened at your next visit.

  2. Ayesha says:

    I’ve recently had my braces off last Tuesday after 3 long years, I had my retainers last Thursday but ever since I’ve been wearing them I’ve had gaps appearing in my teeth which were never there before or during the time I had my braces

  3. Kimberly says:

    I had braces for over 1 to 2 years I had very uneven teeth and after my braces came off my teeth were so beautiful and straight my dentist said after my braces came off I will get Invisalign to straighten my teeth even more and yeah my teeth were amazing but they needed to order more me new Invisalign I waited for 3 months for the new ones and by that time my teeth had gotten uneven I hate looking at them now they went from beautiful back to ugly I am so disappointed I don’t know what to do my dentist said keep wearing them for 22hours it will get fixed again but no its not happening..

    • It takes multiple “trays” or aligners worn in succession to see the correct occur with clear aligners. Please follow your doctors instructions and be patient. I’m sure you’ll see improvement!

  4. Emily says:

    I got my braces off Wednesday, November 23, and I don’t know if I’m just used to my teeth being straight, or if they’re moving again. Part of me feels like they’re not moving but part of me feels like they are, and that they’re not as nice as they were Wednesday. What should I do? Should I contact my doctor or what? I’m beginning to get concerned. is it possible for that to happen, I’ve been wearing top and bottom retainer at all times like my doctor instructed besides eating and brushing. I’d like some advice on this please

    • Your teeth are going to shift a little bit. There is nothing on your body that doesn’t change with time. Retainers are the best thing we have to MINIMIZE these changes. They cannot prevent all change. Nothing can. If you think the teeth are moving more than is acceptable to you, please discuss it with your local orthodontist.

  5. Kelly Torres says:

    Hi my name is kelly in 02 I started my treatment with my braces I had quite a severe gap that year I also became very ill with lupus and could not continue my treatment until 04 with a new orthodontist a year later my teeth were done by invisalin a week later I notice my teeth shifting my gap was staring to come back I am now 28 I have always since I can remember have been ashamed of of my teeth being sick made them worse I have a chipped front tooth discoloration and a metal brace behind my front teeth what can I do and afford that can make my teeth nice ?

    • I’m sorry to hear about all of your challenges. There are lots of options for you however. I would recommend a bonded retainer to help keep the gap between your front teeth from coming back. I like the idea of Invisalign for you if all you need is a tune-up. You should visit your orthodontist again and see what is possible

  6. Angel says:

    Im getting my braces off on November 29, and im worried my teeth will move is the retainer going to help me or do i have to go back to crooked teeth.

  7. Mariela says:

    I got my braces removed about 3 years ago. I have really small roots on my two front teeth. I sometimes wear my retainers. I am scared my teeth will fall out. If I don’t wear retainers will it make it worse and loosen up even more? What do you recommend? I don’t want to get surgery ☹️️

    • I would recommend that you continue wearing your retainers. If the teeth are loose, ask your orthodontist to bond a retainer to the back for stability. The worst case scenario is that someday you lose your teeth and may need implants. I have several and they are not a big deal. Good luck!

  8. sandra says:

    I got my braces off in October and needed a crown replacement in one of my top front teeth. I also needed some gum surgery were the crown is going. I have to wait 6 weeks before I get my crown cause the gum has to heal.I have temporary crown in and now my retainer feels a little different. Should I have it checked and could my teeth move?

    • You need to take your retainer into your orthodontist and have him adjust it to fit the temporary crown. I would also recommend replacing the retainer after all of your work is done so that everything fits right

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