When your braces come off or you use your last aligner, it calls for a celebration! At last, all your hard work and dedication has paid off, and you’ve got a healthier, straighter smile to show for it. You leave the orthodontist’s office with your new retainer and every intention to wear it exactly as directed…and you do, at first. But over time, it becomes easier and easier to forget about it, and you find yourself falling asleep without putting it in. Before you know it, you can’t remember the last time you put it in. You may not even remember where you put it!
You tell yourself to call the orthodontist about getting the retainer replaced, but it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of your to-do list. Then one day, you see a picture of yourself smiling, or look in the mirror and notice something is a little bit off with your teeth. Upon closer inspection, you realize to your dismay that your teeth have shifted! If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Here at Foothill Orthodontics, we take care of many adult patients who need a bit of touch-up treatment to correct a relapse.
Keep reading below to learn more about what causes a relapse, and what we can do to help correct it.
Reasons for a relapse
Not wearing your retainer as directed isn’t always to blame for a relapse, but it is the most common reason. Unfortunately, many patients underestimate the importance of retainers! Treatment doesn’t stop once the braces come off or the aligners run out. The teeth and surrounding bone and gums require time to solidify in their new locations the initial phase of treatment is complete. Wearing a retainer regularly protects the teeth from the forces that want to pull them back to their previous positions, and helps to stabilize them over time.
There can be other reasons for an orthodontic relapse, however. These include:
Teeth grinding – If you are a chronic tooth grinder, you’re likely already aware of the damage it can cause. Constant grinding produces a continuous force that can place a strain on your teeth and even alter your bite. The resulting tension plays a role in how the teeth are impacted, sometimes causing them to become misaligned over time.
Genetics and natural aging – Even if genetics give you a beautiful smile to start with, you may notice your teeth naturally shifting as you grow older. This is a common occurrence, especially in the front teeth, which may be more susceptible to shifting under pressure as the enamel begins to wear thin.
Tooth loss – Teeth that are lost due to trauma, decay, or periodontal disease leave an empty space. If not corrected, the teeth surrounding that space may begin drifting towards it. This can eventually lead to a misaligned bite.
Why are retainers so important?
When you understand more about the various factors that can lead to a relapse, it’s easy to see why retainers are such an important part of orthodontic success! As we briefly mentioned above, your teeth aren’t the only things we want to stay in place once the initial phase of treatment is complete. The gums and bones in your mouth will need to align to these new positions, too. Since the tissues surrounding the teeth can sometimes take a little longer to align to a different position, wearing a retainer regularly can help the gums and bones to realign, further stabilizing your bite.
To put it another way, the teeth aren’t just fixed in the jaw. Each one is held in its socket by elastic ligaments that attach the roots to the bone. These ligaments are living tissue that are affected by the movement of the teeth, and this attachment is what allows for the small movements of the teeth during treatment. When tension is placed in and around the teeth using an orthodontic appliance like braces or aligners, new ligaments are formed.
Once the first phase of treatment, or remodeling phase, is complete, those same tissues, ligaments, and bone will need a bit of time to stabilize. Without regular retainer use, the teeth will be less stable, and will almost always shift back to their old positions.
How Foothill Orthodontics can treat an orthodontic relapse
If your smile has suffered a relapse for any reason, don’t panic! We’re here to help. If you’ve been wearing your retainer properly and only minor shifting is present, we may be able to leave things alone for the time being and just monitor your teeth for any further shifting. Minor movements of the teeth can also be corrected by having new retainers made. However, if you are experiencing a significant relapse, we may recommend re-treatment for you. The silver lining: correcting a relapse often takes much less time than your original treatment!
At Foothill Orthodontics, we’re proud to offer the following options to patients looking to improve their oral health and straighten their smile.
Traditional metal braces
Metal braces are one of the most effective tools we have for correcting misaligned teeth. They are generally composed of medical-grade alloys such as stainless steel or nickel, and can be used for treating both simple and complex tooth issues. They work relatively quickly at closing gaps and aligning teeth, and are a cost-effective choice since they don’t require some of the more complex technology or expensive equipment that newer treatments do.
Today’s braces are comfortable, subtle, and easily customized. The overall strength, durability, and affordability of traditional braces make them the most popular treatment method, year after year.
Damon Clear braces
Damon Clear braces are similar to traditional clear braces, but instead of using elastics or clips to bind the archwires in place, they use tieless braces that don’t need to be “tightened” and are gentle to the teeth and tissues. Clinical studies have shown they can work faster than traditional braces, sometimes speeding the process up by six months or more!
Damon Clear are as close to invisible as you can get with braces since there are no visible metal parts or elastic ties that can yellow during treatment. The brackets are more comfortable and are resistant to staining and discoloration throughout the treatment process. Our Damon System treatment also requires fewer office visits than traditional braces and invisible aligners.
The Invisalign clear aligner system
Invisalign uses a series of custom-made retainers, called aligners, to gradually straighten your teeth. These trays are clear, smooth, and removable. This allows for an extra measure of freedom and flexibility, as patients experience no irritation from wires or brackets, have no food restrictions, and can remove the aligners to eat, drink, and maintain their regular dental hygiene routine.
Invisalign works especially well for mild and moderate cases of the most common orthodontic issues, like those often experienced with relapses.
Start smiling again with Foothill Orthodontics
Whatever the reason for your relapse, Foothill Orthodontics has got what it takes to get your smile back on track! Our talented team has years of experience providing the highest-quality orthodontic care to patients of all ages in Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities.
Touching up or repeating your past orthodontic treatment will give you a smile you can be proud of, and will help ensure better oral health in the future, too. Even minor misalignments can make cleaning your teeth more difficult, increasing the risk for decay and gum disease. Call us today to schedule a consultation and let’s get started!