After 3 years of putting up with being called ‘metal mouth,’ ‘train track,’ and ‘tin grin,’ your braces are finally off–and you’re in love with your new, straight smile.
But wait, are your eyes playing tricks on you or is your front tooth shifting bit by bit?
Here’s the unfortunate truth: keeping your choppers straight after your orthodontic treatment ends isn’t easy. And here comes the flood of questions:
- Why do teeth shift after braces come off?
- Is it normal for your teeth to shift after braces?
- Did your dentist/orthodontist do something wrong?
- Can these shifts be prevented?
- And most importantly, how can these movements be fixed?
Before you start pulling up Gmail and drafting an angry email to your innocent dentist, first, get the answers to your questions below.
Why do teeth move after braces?
Think about it this way.
Your body is in constant flux. You’re breaking down and rebuilding muscle tissue right this moment. Your hair grows a little longer every second (even if you can’t see it!)
So, is it any wonder that your teeth shift, too?
Regardless, you must want to know the exact reason behind these movements that are gradually laying waste to your perfect smile. Here’s why your teeth aren’t ‘set in stone’ after your braces come off:
- Nothing is holding the teeth in place – This is the most obvious reason; once your braces are off, there are no longer external pressures that keep your teeth in a specific position.
- Various forces act on the teeth – To make matters worse, you’re constantly applying pressure to your teeth. Your tongue, the act of talking, and chewing all generate forces, however small. Over time, these forces can cause your teeth to move (especially since there’s nothing to hold them in place anymore).
- Periodontal diseases and bone loss – Periodontal disease refers to the inflammation and infection of tissues surrounding teeth, especially bone and gum tissue. The result is bone loss, which means less support for your teeth. Thus, resulting in teeth shifting.
- Changes in tooth count reset the balance – In the event that you’ve lost a tooth (i.e. extraction), other teeth are going to have more room to move and may drift into the gap.
- Other factors – Besides the above factors, things like ageing, teeth-grinding (bruxism) during sleep, and even genetics can affect the position of your teeth
How can I stop my teeth from shifting after braces?
There are no two ways about it: the only way to keep your teeth from shifting after braces (and all that money from going down the drain) is to be diligent about wearing your retainers after your braces come off.
To understand why it helps to know why your teeth are even able to move during the braces treatment process in the first place.
Because of the external pressure applied to your teeth during braces treatment, the bone density around the root of your tooth reduces.
Thus, enabling your teeth to shift into the correct positioning.
That means the bone needs to reform around your tooth when it’s in its new position to keep it in its place. You can think of it as laying the foundation for a house. The bone around the root of your teeth is akin to cement.
That’s why your retainers are so important as they help to keep your teeth in place after you are braces-free, if not they may start moving back because of the various factors outlined above (i.e. pressure, changes in tooth count, etc).
So–does that mean that you can forget about the retainers after a few months?
Unfortunately, no. While your teeth are, overall, less likely to move over time, they can definitely still move, so it’s probably best not to make skipping your retainer a regular habit!
What else can I do in addition to wearing retainers?
While being extra-diligent about retainers is key, there are a few factors that can also boost your chances at keeping that gorgeous, post-braces straight smile of yours:
- Maintain oral health – Be sure to brush teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss daily to remove dental plaque; doing so minimizes the chances of periodontal disease and tooth loss
- Address any grinding issues – Grinding puts pressure on your teeth, which can shift them in different directions. So, you might want to consider wearing a nightguard on nights where you’re not wearing your retainers to protect your teeth.
- Visit your dentist/orthodontist regularly – Sometimes, your teeth may shift out of place when your retainers no longer fit your teeth as before because of wear-and-tear. Frequent visits (every 6 months or so) to your dentist/orthodontist allows him or her to inspect your retainer and make necessary adjustments for a better fit.
My teeth have already shifted - what now?
It’s important to note that it’s normal to experience some natural settling of your teeth once treatment is complete.
But significant changes or shifts are cause for concern.
Now, when you notice such shifting, you might be tempted to just DIY your teeth-straightening and just ram those long-forgotten retainers into your teeth (like Cinderella’s stepsisters tried to squeeze their feet into her glass slippers).
What can go wrong? After all, you’ve been through braces–you know exactly how your teeth should end up looking, right???
Well… You really shouldn’t; not only is it uncomfortable, but the inaccurate fit can also cause significant damage to your teeth.
Truth is, In most cases if your teeth have shifted, you’d have to undergo another round of teeth-straightening.
If your teeth have shifted, you probably have to straighten them again.
What a nightmare.
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