Orthodontic Relapse – Prevent Your Teeth From Moving After Braces

Written by Nancy


Patients who’ve had years of orthodontic treatments know the discomfort of forcing on a retainer after avoiding them for a week…maybe more. While it may feel like a pain to wear retainers after years of braces, it IS necessary.

Braces help align your teeth. Remember all the pain you felt each time you went to the dentist to get your braces tightened? That happens because you’re forcing your teeth to move closer together.

Once your braces come off, your teeth should be in line, but they don’t always stay put. In fact, teeth almost always move after braces have come off.

To prevent years of treatment from going to waste, your orthodontist will give you either wire or plastic (removable) retainers which will need to be worn for at least a year.

Why does orthodontic relapse happen?

A patient’s newly aligned teeth need time to settle. Teeth are held together with braces but once the braces are off, they are inclined to move back to their original position.

Orthodontic relapse happens for a few reasons including:


  • Teeth grinding:When people grind their teeth, it can move their bottom jaw forward. At the same time, the excessive pressure on the upper jaw can force teeth to shift. Teeth grinding is much more common than people think; according to the American Dental Association around 95% of Americans grind or clench their teeth.
  • Genetics:Braces should re-align teeth but genetics can prompt them to return to their original positions.
  • Tooth loss:In the case a tooth falls out, other teeth will move forward in attempt to fill up the gap so if you’ve lost a tooth, expect your other teeth to begin shifting forward.
  • Age:As we grow older, the enamel from our teeth wears off. Our teeth grow weaker and are more likely to shift. Our teeth also space out with age.

Retainers help prevent orthodontic relapse:

Because orthodontic relapse is so natural for our teeth, teeth that undergo orthodontic treatment need to be supported with either fixed or removable retainers. Only after consistent use of retainers will your teeth settle in their new positions.

Removable retainers

There are two main types of removable retainers.

Hawley retainers consist of acrylic and metal parts; the acrylic part is designed to rest against the roof of the mouth or sit against the tongue. The metal parts clip on the to the anchor teeth. These retainers should be worn full time for a year.

Essex retainers are similar to Invisalign aligners. Like Hawley retainers, they are also removable. The retainers are created after taking a cast of your teeth. These retainers are barely visible and are made to fit around each individual tooth.

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers are lightweight wires that are placed on the backside of the teeth. Orthodontists usually place these retainers behind the front teeth in both the upper and lower arch since these teeth are most likely to shift.


An orthodontist will ask you to wear removable retainers full-time following treatment. This can be brought down to wearing them just during sleep and eventually just for a couple of days per week. Most people will be asked to continue using their retainers for life.

Retainers are the only way to prevent relapse after orthodontic treatment.

Waterfront Family Dentistry provides comprehensive dental services in Frisco, Texas including orthodontic services, cosmetic dentistry services, wisdom teeth removal, root canals and more.

Their team consists of friendly and experienced dentists and surgeon that are committed to giving you a perfect smile!

Get in touch with Waterfront Family Dentistry today by calling 972-987-4343.

About the author



I’m Nancy and no, I didn’t always look like I do in that picture on the right. My foray into health and fitness began as a brace-faced, 16 year-old who was too afraid to wear a two-piece at the beach because I felt my body paled in comparison to my much more toned friends.

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