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.

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

  1. Tiffany says:

    From the time I got my braces off, I was told that I only needed to wear them at night but that was two years ago and now it seems my teeth shift during the day, should u start wearing my retainer during the day and should I be concerned my teeth are shifting so fast?

  2. Tyler Conrad says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,

    I had my braces off since January 7th of this year. Slowly but surely, I realized (and I’m still realizing) that my retainor that I wear on a nightly basis has gotten tighter and tighter. When this first began to occur I was nott too concerned, but now the retainor is so tight I have to shove it into the top of my mouth and it rubs tightly against my teeth. FYI, this only happens on the top teeth, and the bottom teeth have remained perfectly comfortable. Any comment or suggestion would be extremely helpful!


    Tyler Conrad

  3. Stone says:

    This is the second time I post to this so my first retainer didn’t fit so I got a new one at first is was well then I noticed both my lateral incisors moved slight to the back is was small so I ignored it then I noticed my left front tooth moved forward yet still not noticeable but today my tooth has shifted massively I looked at my retainer and noticed that my the retainer matches my teeth perfectly so it has shifted with my teeth honestly my teeth have shifted to where it is noticeable and now I’m mad what should i do?

    • There is only one thing you can do when your teeth are shifting after your braces come off Stone (and all others with this problem)… Return to the doctor who treated you!

  4. Jennie Payne says:

    Hi, I had braces and jaw surgery (BSSO) and my bite is still not right. My canines do not touch at all and I am grinding my teeth worse than ever. I also touch on my right side on the outside of a molar before the left. What can I do? I also had my braces off nearly a year and a half earlier than the original quote and treatment plan. I am so worried as I now have TMJ issues and my ortho says he know thinks I have a disc that is not in place.

    • Your orthodontist and your surgeon are a team. You need for them to get together and decide what can be done to give you an acceptable outcome. This is not the first time this has happened and it can be fixed.

  5. Gracie says:

    hi! i had braces for two years, and i just got them off june 16th of this year. i was told by my orthodontist to wear a top and a bottom retainer ONLY WHILE I SLEEP every night. i have done that, and i have not missed one night. i brush twice a day and floss once a day. i really care for my teeth. however, i’ve noticed some small gaps forming between a few of my bottom teeth. three gaps, to be exact. i noticed them about a month ago but they were so small at the time a hair couldn’t fit through them, so i brushed it off. however, recently they’ve been increasing in size and now i can clearly notice them with a glimpse in the mirror. i am going away tomorrow for two and a half weeks and i don’t have an appointment for another month and a half. I’m really worried as i am doing everything the orthodontist told me to do, and i don’t want braces again or messed up teeth…
    should i be worried?
    any advice on how i can help this, preferably on my own as i won’t be able to visit the dentist anytime soon?
    pleeaassseee help calm my nerves!!!!! :(

    • Teeth are going to move to a certain extend no matter what kind of retainers are used. Even the best retainers only minimize changes. Wear your retainers as prescribed and the movements will be minimal. Get in to see your orthodontist if you think the movement is excessive or if it bothers you. (This answer is the same for ALL patients who have had orthodontic treatment, are wearing their retainers, and the teeth are still moving).

  6. Nicole says:


    I’ve had my braces off for 3 years, and since then, I’ve been wearing my retainer constantly, even during the day. About a month ago I was told I could just wear my retainer and night (but even then I still wear it for the majority of the day). Even though I am avidly wearing the retainer, I’m starting to get a gap back between my two front teeth. I read online that this could be because of the extra tissue between these two teeth (which I have). If this is the reason, can the issue be fixed and the gap closed?

    • Spaces that appear between the front teeth can only be permanently held together by a permanent retainer (a wire bonded on the back). If you really don’t want a space, you need to talk to your orthodontist about getting one cemented behind your teeth.

  7. Kaitlin says:

    Hi Dr. Jorgensen,

    I got my braces off on December 12, 2013. I wore my clear and metal retainers all the time but recently my dog had chewed up my top clear retainer so I went to the orthodontists to get a new one. My next appointment to go get the retainer is on August 24. Today I was brushing my teeth and I noticed that there is a small gap forming in my top middle teeth. The two right in the middle. I’m afraid that it will get bigger by the time I have my appointment. Please help.

    • Your teeth will go back to where they were when the impression for your retainer was made. If you have recurring problems with space appearing there, you should ask him to bond a permanent retainer behind your teeth to keep them together.

  8. Lauren Gonzales says:

    I got my braces off about 3 years ago, and my bottom retainer just cracked. I want to get it replaced, but I don’t know how they are going to make a retainer that is the mold of my freshly straightened teeth. I want my teeth to be as straight as possible! I might just be out of luck.

    • Your orthodontist can only work with the teeth, bones, and gums you have now. Your teeth may have settled since you got them off 3 years ago and a new impression for a model will actually give you a retainer that fits where your teeth are now better.

  9. BG says:

    I wore my retainer every day, as I was instructed, and then the orthodontist said I only needed to wear at night. However, during the day, my teeth still shifted, but only on the bottom. My teeth aren’t perfectly straight, and I dont want braces again, what to do?

    • This is the reason why all of my patients get bonded lower retainers at the end of treatment. They are glued from canine to canine in the lower and they keep the teeth straight all day.

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