Here at Moffett & Walley Orthodontics, we regularly see adult patients who are experiencing what we call an orthodontic relapse. The smile they spent so much time straightening has begun to shift, and they want to know if we can do anything to get it back on track again. Fortunately, there is! We offer retreatment options for adults in Clinton and Madison so you can enjoy your smile for life.
What is an orthodontic relapse?
The term “orthodontic relapse” is the tendency of the teeth to return to the positions they were in before orthodontic treatment. Short-term relapse happens less than one year after the completion of treatment, while long-term relapse occurs more than a year after finishing treatment.
Orthodontic relapse is pretty common, with some studies estimating that more than 50% of patients will experience relapse within ten years of completing treatment. This is one reason orthodontists now agree that you should wear your retainers for life.
Don’t let that kind of commitment scare you off, though! After the first few months with your retainers, you’ll only need to wear them at night. This will stabilize your newly straightened smile and help keep your teeth in optimal positions.
What causes an orthodontic relapse?
Not using a retainer as directed by an orthodontist is the most common reason for teeth shifting after orthodontic treatment. Many patients underestimate the importance of retainers, especially once a bit has passed, but treatment doesn’t stop once your braces come off!
After the initial phase of treatment is complete, the teeth, surrounding bone, and gums still need time to solidify in their new locations. Wearing your retainers as directed by Dr. Moffett will help protect your teeth from the forces trying to pull them back to their previous positions and assist with the stabilization effort over time.
Other factors for relapse include, but are not limited to
Genetics and natural aging
Genetics can give you a beautiful smile, but you may still experience some natural shifting of your teeth as you age. This is a common occurrence because, whether or not you had braces in the past, the back teeth tend to shift forward over time, reducing the amount of space for the front teeth and pushing them out of alignment.
Chronic tooth grinders will already know the damage it can cause, but the continuous force strains teeth that can alter the bite, and result in misalignment.
Suppose you’ve lost one or more teeth due to trauma. In that case, decay or periodontal disease, the teeth surrounding that space will often begin to drift toward it over time, eventually leading to misalignment of the teeth and the bite.
How are orthodontic relapses treated?
Seeing your teeth shifting for any reason can be upsetting, but Moffett & Walley Orthodontics is here to help! There are a few different options for addressing an orthodontic relapse.
Monitoring the teeth
Even with the best retainer and complete compliance, you’ll still experience minor tooth movement over time. As we mentioned above, the bone and gums that support your teeth change as you age, and retainers can also become slightly distorted with wear.
If you’ve worn your retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Moffett and only have minor shifting, we can often leave things as they are for the time being and monitor your teeth for any further movement.
Creating new retainers
We’ll treat some types of minor movements with new or replacement retainers. If you’ve lost or broken your retainer, this will be one of the first things we do. In general, fixed retainers are good for maintaining the alignment of the lower teeth, while we typically recommend removable aligners for the upper teeth.
If you’ve suffered a more significant relapse, we may recommend retreatment with braces or aligners. As an adult, you may dread wearing traditional braces again, but we offer a wide variety of treatment options to correct your relapse. These include discreet options like clear braces and Invisalign clear aligners.
What are the benefits of retreatment?
The thought of retreatment can feel overwhelming, but there are good reasons for addressing your orthodontic relapse! First and foremost is improved oral health. Crowded teeth create crevices where food particles can accumulate, leading to plaque and tartar buildup. Teeth that are properly spaced and aligned are easier to keep clean with a good dental hygiene routine.
Retreatment can also give you back the beautifully aligned smile you once had! This can help you feel more confident in your daily life and improve your overall self-esteem. The good news is that correcting a relapse often takes much less time than your initial treatment.
Whether you choose braces or aligner treatment with Moffett & Walley Orthodontics to correct your orthodontic relapse, the results will be more than worth it when you recognize your smile in the mirror again.
Get your smile back on track with Moffett & Walley Orthodontics
Whatever the reason for your orthodontic relapse, we can recreate the smile you’ve been missing and improve your oral health. If you’re ready to take the first step towards reclaiming your beautiful smile, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Moffett in Clinton or Madison!