Braces may be a major investment of time and money. But one that comes with the promise of a beautiful, straight smile as the light at the end of the tunnel.
But what happens when, after all that time and effort, you notice your teeth shifting post-braces? It’s a common concern, and many wonder what you can do if you notice this unexpected shift.
Why Do Teeth Shift After Braces?
To understand why teeth might shift post-braces, we first need to grasp the biology behind orthodontic treatments:
Tooth and Jaw Structure
Our teeth aren’t rigidly fixed in our jawbone, as many of us believe them to be. Instead, they sit in spaces, called sockets, within our jaw. They are held in place by periodontal ligaments.
When braces or other orthodontic appliances apply pressure on teeth, it can actually shift the location of the socket within the jaw through a process called bone remodeling. The jaw will actually reshape itself in response to the pressure created by braces. While these changes are permanent, they take quite a bit of time to become fixed. Not wearing a prescribed retainer can mean the sockets can shift back towards where they were prior to braces.
An additional factor at play is the periodontal ligaments we talked about. As your teeth shift with braces, these ligaments can move and be reshaped. However, after the braces are removed, these ligaments can sometimes attempt to go back to their original position. Again, as long as you wear your retainer as prescribed, this shift can be avoided.
Wear and Tear
We exert pressure on our teeth and jaw every day. The act of chewing, speaking, and sometimes even grinding our teeth, can impact the structure of our mouths. On one level, this exertion and pressure exercises our jaw and keep it healthy. But over time, it can also cause teeth to shift position. This is another reason wearing your retainer as prescribed will help keep teeth in place.
The emergence of wisdom teeth can also exert pressure on adjacent teeth, causing them to shift slightly. With proper dental and orthodontic care, it is unlikely that this will undo all of the work your braces did. In fact, it can often be the case that correcting misalignment problems with braces may make room for wisdom teeth to grow in safely.
As we grow older, the width of our jaws can naturally decrease. This can sometimes lead to crowding of the front teeth, especially at the lower front. While this result is often thought of as teeth going back to how they were before braces, it is actually just a common effect of your jaw changing shape naturally as you get older.
Is it Common for Teeth to Shift After Braces?
Technically, yes. While braces are effective in achieving alignment, post-treatment shifting, also known as relapse, is not uncommon. Very tiny shifts after braces are almost inevitable. As we mentioned, some degree of movement is entirely normal as your teeth settle into their new positions. The good news is that, the vast majority of the time, these changes will not be noticeable. However, significant shifting is something you should be wary of, and it can occur if post-brace care isn’t diligently followed.
What Can You Do?
The key lies in being proactive. If you’ve noticed some changes in your dental alignment post-braces, don’t panic, but act fast.
- Retainers: Your retainers help maintain the position of your teeth after the braces are removed. If you are prescribed a retainer, wear it as directed. This is your first line of defense against your teeth relapsing.
- Regular Checkups: It’s essential to continue seeing your orthodontist and dentist regularly after getting your braces removed. They can spot potential issues early on and take corrective action if needed.
- Good Habits: You can avoid the negative impact of wear and tear with good dental habits. Avoid chewing on non-food items like pens or ice. Treat bruxism (tooth grinding) if it is an issue for you. And maintain good oral hygiene for the health of your teeth and gums since gingivitis and tooth decay can loosen your teeth.
- Address Wisdom Teeth: If you’re in the age bracket where wisdom teeth emerge (typically late teens to early twenties), it’s a good idea to consult with your dentist. They might advise removal if they assess that the wisdom teeth could jeopardize your dental alignment.
- Clear Aligners: If you’ve experienced a relapse, and it is more significant, clear aligners can be a discreet and convenient solution. Custom-made to fit your teeth, they can address minor to moderate alignment issues without the need for traditional braces.
Enjoy Your Straighter Smile
Teeth shifting after braces is a phenomenon some patients face. While orthodontic treatments do an excellent job of aligning teeth, a minor shift post-treatment could just be your teeth finding their comfortable space. With the right preventive measures and timely interventions, you can maintain that confident smile you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
If you notice a shift in your teeth after braces, don’t wait. Reach out to us today and explore solutions tailored to you.