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Avoiding orthodontic relapse

If you’ve invested time and money in orthodontic treatment to create the perfect smile, the last thing you want is to see those beautiful pearly whites move out of their perfectly aligned position.

But the reality is, teeth can begin to shift after braces for a variety of reasons.

Known as orthodontic relapse, it’s a situation that’s best managed sooner rather than later. Here’s an insight into how it might occur and what you need to do.

Failure to wear retainer or damaged retainer

The role of the retainer is just as it sounds – to keep teeth in place after braces. Your orthodontist will provide a removable retainer that you should wear nightly over a prescribed period of time. The most common reason teeth might begin to shift back into their previous position is because patients fail to wear their retainer as advised.

At Norwest Orthodontics, we also provide a fixed retainer which will ensure the teeth do not move. However, if the fixed retainer is damaged, we must be informed as soon as possible or else there is a chance that the teeth may move.

Failure to heed advice regarding your removable or fixed retainer sees the ligaments that support teeth placement begin to contract and pull teeth back into original position.


In pregnancy it’s also those pesky ligaments that can be responsible for teeth starting to move. that’s because the end of pregnancy sees the body release the hormone relaxin. While this is useful in preparing the body for child birth, relaxin also affects other ligaments in the body, including the jaw.

Many women notice their teeth shift within the last few weeks of pregnancy or the months beyond childbirth, however if the retainers are worn as prescribed the chance of this occurring is minimal to none.

Gum disease

Gum disease and the alignment of teeth have an interesting relationship. It’s a well-established fact that gum disease can be caused by crooked teeth as it allows the build-up of plaque.

But there’s also research to indicate gum disease can contribute to teeth shifting out of position. That’s because gum disease creates pockets between the teeth and the gums, reducing the support they have within the mouth. Therefore, it is extremely important to wear your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist.


A traumatic injury to a tooth or the jaw can have a major impact on the positioning of teeth. This is due to the fact dental trauma can affect the teeth, the gums, the ligaments and the jawbone. Meanwhile, if you lose a tooth due to trauma, others will likely shift to fill its position. If there has been trauma to your teeth post-orthodontic treatment, inform your orthodontist as soon as possible.

What to do

The primary way to prevent your teeth shifting after braces is to wear your retainer as advised.

If you feel your teeth are moving after orthodontic treatment, you should consult an orthodontist – sooner rather than later. Small problems can be remedied via retainers, but larger problems may require more extensive treatment including wearing braces for a second time.

The key ways to avoid an orthodontic relapse are to:

  • Wear your night time retainer as advised
  • Inform your orthodontist if your fixed retainer is damaged or broken
  • Adhere to follow-up appointments with your orthodontist
  • Contact your orthodontist if you feel teeth are shifting
  • Maintain good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups to avoid gum disease
  • Consider scheduling an orthodontic checkup in the late stages of pregnancy or after childbirth
  • Contact your orthodontist if your teeth are impacted by trauma

About Norwest Orthodontics

Norwest Orthodontics specialises in helping patients achieve a great smile, no matter their age. We feature a range of orthodontic treatments that span from early intervention right through to remedial adult work.

You can learn more about our services, or contact us to make an appointment.


Avoiding orthodontic relapse

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