You finally decided it was worth the investment to get your teeth fixed and invested in braces. You loved the results, but unfortunately they didn’t last. Your teeth moved back to where they were before. Sometimes they relapse quickly, or it may take years, but many people end up with crooked teeth again.
The good news is that we can move teeth back into place if they relapse after braces. And we can prevent relapse.
Why Teeth Relapse
Tooth relapse after braces is very common, especially in the first year after braces. The cause is simple: your teeth have been moved, but they haven’t become fully fixed in their new places yet.
When braces and other orthodontic treatments move your teeth, they cause your body to remodel bone around your teeth. The body removes bone on one side where force is pushing too hard and putting it down on the other side where there isn’t enough force. However, this new bone that’s laid down may not initially be as hard as your original bone. This means that your teeth have a tendency to move back to their former position.
In addition, the periodontal ligament, the soft tissue that actually holds your tooth in place, hasn’t initially adapted to your new tooth position. Instead, it just stretched like a rubber band, tending to pull the tooth back. Over time, the stretching of the periodontal ligament stimulates the growth of bone around the tooth by increasing the production of osteoblasts, cells that make bone. Holding your teeth in position for a little while longer gives your body time to build up that bone and solidify your teeth in their new positions.
Finally, because many dentists don’t use functional orthodontics to remodel your bite, your bite can be pushing on your teeth in a way that tends to drive them back to their old position.
Preventing and Treating Relapse
The best way to prevent relapse of straight teeth is to wear your retainer according to your dentist’s instructions. The retainer helps teeth stay in place until the bone remodeling and periodontal ligaments adapt to your new tooth position. At first, you may have to wear your retainer frequently (often all day except for eating and brushing). Over time you will wear it less and less. If you are the kind of person who has trouble maintaining wear with a removable retainer, we might recommend a fixed retainer.
But if your teeth have already relapsed, new orthodontic treatment may be necessary. The good news is that this rarely takes as long as your initial set of braces did–maybe six weeks or less–and can easily be accomplished with Invisalign. Invisalign Express has a very good success record with this type of treatment.
We will also evaluate your bite to minimize the risk of relapse and make sure that it is not putting you at risk for TMJ. We use an advanced suite of tools to measure your bite from the tip of your tooth to the joints and muscles. This includes T-Scan, a realtime analysis of bite force on all your teeth, and the K-7, which measures joint motion, joint sounds, and muscle tension.