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Can My Teeth Really Relapse After Wearing Braces? What Happens When My Teeth Start to Relapse?

If you’re a former braces wearer, then you might be disappointed to see those successful results beginning to wane. Your teeth are gradually shifting back to the original alignment where they were before braces, all the cascading problems that resulted from your original malocclusion are resurfacing once more, and it seems like all your progress was for naught.

Still, there are responsible measures and proactive precautions you can take to deal with this relapse, and mitigate its risk. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of orthodontic relapse, and what you can do about them.


Why Do Teeth Relapse After Braces?

There are a plethora of reasons why your teeth could shift back and reposition after wearing braces:

  • External pressures
  • Bruxism (grinding and clenching, usually during sleep)
  • Gum weakening
  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Improper retainer wear

Your teeth will be subject to various pressures throughout your lifetime: chewing can affect bite alignment at an average 70 pounds per square inch. When you play high contact sports, your teeth can obviously bear the brunt of mouth injuries, and they almost certainly will if you don’t wear a mouthguard.

These are just a few of the forces that can lead to a patient’s teeth moving and experiencing subsequent orthodontic relapse over time. Neglecting to wear your retainer, per an orthodontist’s recommendations, is another one of the most common causes of orthodontic relapse.

However, if you’re one of those neglectful patients that since changed their mind and are considering wearing that old retainer, don’t. The appliance won’t properly fit if your teeth have moved significantly, and it may end up doing more harm than good. In that circumstance, it’s best to consult an experienced licensed orthodontist about creating a new replacement retainer.

Sadly, these retainers do not offer the best protection from bruxism. If your dentist or orthodontist notices signs of profuse tooth grinding, they may advise that you interchangeably wear retainers and occlusal guards at night, or recommend different bruxism treatments entirely.

Of course, aging and genetics are considerably less out of a patient’s control than retainer wear or bruxism. Like everything else in the body, and almost everything else in life, teeth are prone to continuously changing. Despite that, being proactive and adhering to a little proper appliance wear can go a long way toward slowing down some of those inevitable changes, and mitigating relapse.

How Long Does It Take for Teeth to Relapse After Braces?

We recommend nighttime retainer wear for life, but many orthodontists find it especially crucial to closely monitor the first few months after braces. That’s because if you neglect proper retainer wear, problematic tooth shifting could emerge as quickly as those first few months. Moreover, the majority of teeth settling usually occurs through these first few months of treatment.

While it’s true that nearly 1 in 5 orthodontic patients can be subject to some relapse after the three-year mark, it’s not impossible for teeth shifting and relapse to occur earlier. That’s why proper retainer wear is so important — some teeth shifting may occur, but proper appliance use remains the best method to keep that shifting to a minimum.

Person Wearing Clear Plastic Retainers

Can Retainers Move Teeth Back After Braces?

A retainer’s main purpose is to help “retain” the teeth’s newly aligned positioning. This appliance won’t apply drastic force to shift teeth as orthodontia will. Even so, retainers may be sufficient to mitigate mild dental shifts in many cases.

But the inverse is also true. If you’re using a damaged or ill-fitted retainer, it could cause soreness and create mild shifts that leave your teeth more crooked than ideal.

If you’re experiencing pain or undesired subtle shifts that you suspect are linked to your retainer, consult an orthodontist about switching to a more accurately-fitted replacement retainer.

What To Do If Your Teeth Relapse

In case we haven’t stressed the idea enough, proper orthodontic retainer use is usually the definitive relapse fix, as it can impede serious shifting before those serious shifts ever even occur. Minor movements can usually be corrected with such retainers.

But if more significant regression and relapse have occurred, your orthodontist may recommend retreatment with braces or aligners. If you’re an older patient, you might not feel so keen about the idea of wearing braces again. That’s why we would recommend fixing severe relapse with Smilify clear aligners. This type of appliance is:

  • Usually worn shorter term (6 months) than other orthodontic devices
  • Discreet and nearly invisible
  • Costs less than Invisalign and able to be paid over a flexible monthly payment plan
  • Made with Invisalign-patented SmartTrack material

Moreover, it also helps to receive care from a provider with their own lifetime guarantee. If your car gets dinged up in an accident, you don’t just let that go and neglect to repair it at an auto body shop.

You’ll usually have that fender bender promptly attended to by a mechanic, and fender bender or not, taking your car in for routine vehicle inspection is still an important part of being a responsible driver.

The same principle applies to both your oral health and overall health. Routine maintenance of your teeth is an essential step to keeping your lifelong smile journey on the straight and narrow. Ultimately, those maintenance procedures and checkups are best done by experienced, licensed, and trusted professionals.