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.

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

  1. Teresa Xavier says:

    Hi, I got my braces off about three months ago, and I haven’t been wearing my retainer as much as needed, they don’t hurt when I put them on even when I forst put them on at the orthodontist. I remember when I first got my braces off my gums were really swollen and so when she took impressions of my teeth the swollen gums show in my retainer even though they’re now back to normal size, basically my retainer is loose at the back of my teeth it’s fine at the front but it’s loose at the back.

    • You need to have your orthodontist evaluate the fit of your retainer now to make sure it is still being effective. If your gums were puffy when the initial impressions were taken, the retainer may need to be adjusted or replaced now.

  2. Julia says:

    Hi, Dr.Jorgensen I’ve had braces twice before and the first time I had them on was for almost 5 years. But it’s very sad and embarrassing to admit but I suck my thumb and have been since I was an infinite. I stopped for a year ,but then a lot of tragedy happened in my life and I didn’t have anyone at the time so I went back to my addiction. And so I had to get braces on for 8 more months. And I got them off not to long ago maybe March of this year. And I have been okay about wearing my braces but I fergot often to wear them. I only have to wear them at night but I recently have been wearing day and night but my teeth are still moving. I just wanted to know if there is any way I can fix my teeth from moving without making my mom pay for braces again and still suck my thumb?????

    • Sorry Julia. Your thumb is stronger than retainers or braces. If you are going to suck your thumb, your teeth are going to move.

    • Mac says:

      Hi! I’m 14 and I suck my thumb too! You’re not alone trust me. My mom has ultra sound photos of me sucking my thumb in the womb! I just got my braces off and I’ve been trying really hard not to! I know it’s so hard to stop and its a super hard addiction to stop but YOU CAN DO IT!

  3. Shay says:

    Hi- so I have several concerns:

    I got my braces off a month ago and have worn my retainer religiously. No matter what my gap doesn’t seem to close fully and when I try pushing my teeth together it doesn’t work, and more gaps are starting to form. My gums were puffy during the mould the day I got my braces so it’s starting to feel somewhat loose. Is it possible to fix this with a new retainer or what should I do?

    • Keeping gaps closed is the hardest thing to do. If they are front teeth, the only answer may be to bond a retainer behind the teeth. Only your local orthodontist can tell you if the current space you have can be closed with a retainer alone.

      • Elvis says:

        I’ve been having an issue about my retainers.ive worn them for a couple weeks already but nothin much has changed. The front middle teeth are still the same. How long does it take for the front teeth to become close together?

        • Retainers don’t move teeth, they just hold them (the word “retain” means to hold). If you want your teeth to move, ask your orthodontist for aligners. If you’re not seeing an orthodontist for your treatment, you should.

      • Shay says:

        Ok, I’ve looked into it and I agree about the bonded retainer behind my upper teeth. Would it be just the front ones or the entire set of 6? Also my ortho hasn’t responded but it’s almost as if he doesn’t even offer an upper permanent retainer. I have a cord in between my teeth that won’t allow the gap shut without compression. It’s just frustrating Bc they would be bonding the teeth the way they are now when I still have several gaps that need to be closed. Again, they are very small because I wear my retainer a lot but they relapse quickly

  4. Amelia says:

    I wore my retainer all the time for the full six months my doctor prescribed me to religiously. For the past four months I have worn it at night and I now have a noticable shift in my bottom teeth. Is that normal? I’ve tried wearing it continuously to get rid of it and it does but as soon as I go back to just wearing it at night the shift comes back.

  5. Annette says:

    I started to wear a retainer and I have to wear it for six month or more and I was just wondering if the retainer will/can stretch out my lips permanently. Just wondering

  6. Jaz says:

    Hello I got my braces off over a week ago and I have been wearing my retainer 24/7 I have notice that my bottom teeth have been pushed back it’s very noticeable and it wasn’t like this after I got my braces off is this normal? Can it get fixed?

  7. Janice says:

    I just gpt my bracers removed like about a week ago. I’ve been prescribed to wear my retainers 24/7. I only remove it when im eating. But i noticed that my front four teeth on the top front is not alligned well. Its like they’re a lil forward. It doesnt look good. I’ve been wearing my retainers all the time so i dont really know whats wrong. What do i do?

  8. Purva Anand says:

    Hi…. I got my braces off about yrs back… I wore my retainer for da prescribed period…. Nd den got through wid treatment….. Since past 8 yrs things hv been very gud…. But now I feel dere is a lil gap coming in my front two teeth…….. I don’t noe maybe it cld just be in my mind,, but still don’t know….. But if ne such gap is coming at all,, wat cld be its pace…. Lyk da visible gap will take how long to come….

    • Changes to the teeth happen throughout our lives. If you suspect your teeth are shifting, return to your orthodontist. You may need another retainer or a slight “tune up” (additional treatment)

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