Here at Brilliant Smiles Orthodontics, we know that even if you have the best intentions, it’s all too easy to forget about wearing your retainer here and there…until before you know it, you can’t even remember the last time you put it in. You may not even remember where it is! That’s why we’re here to talk about touch-up treatment for orthodontic relapses!
It’s not uncommon for us to see patients who stopped wearing their retainer regularly and are now dealing with an orthodontic relapse. That smile they spent so much time and effort straightening has begun to shift, and they want to know if there’s anything we can do to get it back on track again.
Fortunately, there is! Dr. Chiang and the rest of our expert team have years of experience working with orthodontic patients of all ages, including adults who need minor touch-ups to treat a relapse. If you’ve successfully straightened your teeth before, but are now struggling to keep them in place, we can help! But first, let’s take a look at what causes these relapses to occur, and how orthodontics can help correct them.
What can cause an orthodontic relapse?
Not wearing your retainer as directed is the most common culprit for a relapse, but it’s not the only one. They can occur for a few other reasons, too, including:
Genetics and natural aging
Our teeth naturally begin shifting as we get older. The front teeth in particular can be affected by this, as the enamel also begins to wear thin as we age.
If one or more teeth have been lost due to decay or periodontal disease, the surrounding teeth may drift toward that space. When left untreated over time, this can eventually lead to a misaligned bite.
If you grind your teeth, it places a strain on them that can eventually alter your bite and even cause misalignment.
Why retainers are so important
You’ll hear over and over from orthodontists that retainers are the key to achieving long-term success when it comes to your smile. That’s because it’s true! To understand why, it helps to know a bit more about the straightening process itself.
Once the initial phase of treatment is complete, your braces will be removed or you will use your last aligner. We want your teeth to stay in place going forward, but we also need the gums and bones in your mouth to align to these new positions. Because they’re made up of soft and hard tissues, they can sometimes take a little longer to align. Wearing a retainer regularly helps the gums and bones align successfully, and will also further stabilize your bite.
Not sure what that means? Just imagine that each tooth is being held in its socket by elastic ligaments that attach the roots to the bone. Those ligaments are living tissues that are affected by the movement of the teeth. It’s this attachment that allows for the small movements the teeth make throughout treatment. An orthodontic appliance like braces or aligners introduces tension in and around the teeth. Once remodeling is complete, the tissues, ligaments, and bone will still need time to stabilize.
That’s where retainers come in! Without the continued tension they provide, teeth will almost always migrate back to their old positions. Regular retainer use adds the stability and tension your teeth need to stay in their new positions.
Treating orthodontic relapses
Noticing a shift in your smile can be upsetting, whatever the reason. The good news is, there are a variety of ways we can straighten it out again! If you’ve been wearing your retainer as directed and there’s only slight shifting present, we may be able to leave things as they are and monitor your teeth for any further movement. We’re often able to correct cases like this by having new retainers made, as well.
If your relapse is more significant, however, we may recommend re-treatment with braces or aligners. Fortunately, correcting a relapse often takes much less time than your original treatment. We offer the following options to patients who are looking to straighten their smile again.
Traditional metal braces
Metal braces are one of the most effective tools we have for correcting misaligned teeth. They’re composed of medical-grade alloys such as stainless steel and nickel, and work relatively quickly at closing gaps and aligning teeth. Depending on when you had your original treatment, you may find that the newer braces are far more comfortable, subtle, and stylish than ever before. The overall strength, durability, and affordability that braces provide keep them a top treatment year after year.
Ceramic braces offer the same strength and reliability as traditional metal braces but come with semi-translucent or tooth-colored ceramic brackets to blend in well with your natural smile. The brackets are about the same size and shape as metal braces, but much less noticeable. When paired with clear, white, or tooth-colored wires and elastic ties, they’re incredibly discreet, and can be an excellent option for patients looking for a more subtle way to straighten their smile!
Invisalign clear aligner system
Unlike braces, which are fixed to your teeth, Invisalign uses a series of removable, custom-made aligners to gradually straighten your smile. These trays are completely clear, smooth, and comfortable. This allows patients an extra measure of freedom and flexibility that traditional braces just can’t match. There is no irritation from wires or brackets, no food restrictions, and the aligners are removed to eat, drink, and maintain your regular dental hygiene routine. The Invisalign system works particularly well for mild and moderate orthodontic issues like those often experienced with relapses.
Help your smile look its best again with Brilliant Smiles Orthodontics
Whatever the reason for your orthodontic relapse, we can turn your frown upside down and give you a smile you’re proud to share again! If you’re ready to touch up your past orthodontic treatment and reclaim your oral health, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation!