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.

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

  1. Sjshha says:

    I just got my retainers and when I talk for a while the bottom retainer feels like it’s moving or coming off, how do I know it’s right?

  2. Chantelle Iles says:

    I have had my braces off in June 2015 and I was told to wear retainers for three months (all the time) and after that I had to wear them only at night, which I have been well some of the time , but I feel like my top set of teeth have moved and lefted a small gap but I can kinda still fit the top retainer on but I don’t know if the top set will straighten up abit if I carry on wearing them

    • You need to take your retainer with you and see your orthodontist again. Only he can tell you if your current retainer will do the job or if you’ll need a different type

  3. Nikkie M. says:

    Hi just wanna ask, my dentist wants my braces to be removed now, but as per my observation my teeth are still not aligned, for example my left front teeth is a bit deeper than the right teeth. She suggests on removing my braces since my teeth haven’t moved for months now, but I can’t see any treatment she’s doing for my teeth aside from just changing my color bonds every appointment. She told me that the retainers will take care of the other alignments that braces cannot do. Is this right? should I continue removing my braces? or should I consult to other Ortho?

  4. Jen says:

    Hi. I’ve actually had Invisalign about ten years ago and have worn my retainer almost every night since then. Recently bought a new retainer because mine was getting old and had some chips. The new retainer hurts when I take it off and my teeth feel sensitive again like they’re moving too much after the day time. the new retainer was made from a 3D model of my teeth.

  5. Rowan says:

    I have been bad, and I have not worn my ratiner for about a year. I have had my braces off for 2-3 years now. I went to the Ortho yesterday and he just adjusted it a little but other than that he said it was fine. When I put it in, it feels slightly loose and mobile. Also, I can tell it is pushing againt my front tooth and that tooth seems to wiggle a little like it is loose if I wear my retainor for a few hours. Should that go away?

  6. Beena B H says:

    Hello Dr. Jorgensen

    I got braces when I was 17 years old, and I got my braces off last month (july) and now I am 21 years old. My orthodontist gave me two different retainers to use. (Clear and the one with the metal). She also explained that I can mix and match the retainers when wearing them just as long as I wear them 24/7 for the next 7 – 10 years. I got braces because I had a small gap between my two front/center teeth. Every since I have had my braces removed I’ve been wearing the retainers everyday, all day. Although, yesterday and the day before I did NOT wear the retainers. I thought that this may be normal since I put a lot of wear and tear on them, because I constantly take them in and out of my mouth when I eat and talk. Today I put them back in and the top feels different. The bottom fits perfectly. The top retainer is not as tight as they were a few days ago. It still feel great, but when I put it in I had to use my tongue to push them up and keep them there for a few minutes. As of now the retainer still fits, but I’m still concerned. Should I be concerned? I’m paranoid and I really don’t want my teeth shift greatly. The orthodontist that I go to now is not helpful at all and is more so only money hungry. Please let me know what do you think, thank you!

    • Your body is a dynamic system, things are always changing… including the position of your teeth. If you stop wearing your retainers for any length of time, the teeth will shift. The key is to keep wearing them enough to prevent major movement. Good luck!

  7. Christina says:

    Hi, I am getting my braces off on Monday. My orthodontist provides invisalign for our retainers. My back molars on my top teeth have not grown all the way in. Will the retainer provide room for this?

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