How We Can Treat Orthodontic Relapses

Orthodontic treatment is one of the most important investments you can make in your oral health. A lot of hard work goes into achieving a straighter smile, but it’s worth it once you see the incredible results! Once treatment is complete, it’s easy to remember how important your retainer is. In the beginning, you wear it exactly as instructed. 

But life happens, and maybe you forget to put it in one night. Over time, it gets easier and easier to go without it. At some point, you may even forget where it is! Deep down, you know you need to get back into the habit of wearing your retainer again. But it keeps slipping your mind until one day, you notice that your smile doesn’t look the way it used to. On closer inspection, you see that your teeth have actually shifted and things aren’t as aligned as it should be. 

So what happens now? 

If all of this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone! Here at Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics, we hear from many adult patients in a similar situation. Fortunately, we have a number of ways to treat orthodontic relapses. Have you been putting off seeing an orthodontist because you’re worried about what they might say? Don’t let that keep you from reclaiming your beautiful smile! Let’s take a closer look at what a relapse is and how we can help you get your old smile back again.

What is an orthodontic relapse?

An orthodontic relapse occurs when the teeth return to their original positions after orthodontic treatment has been successfully completed. If this happens less than one year after treatment has concluded, we refer to it as short-term relapse.  A long-term relapse is one that occurs a year or more after treatment concludes.

These relapses are actually relatively common. Some studies have shown that about half of all patients will experience some level of relapse within ten years of completing their treatment. There are many different reasons for orthodontic relapses, but the one we see most frequently is irregular retainer use. It’s an unfortunate truth that many patients simply underestimate how important their retainers really are!

Even after treatment is complete, the teeth and surrounding bone and gums still need a bit of time to settle into their new locations. Wearing your retainer as directed will help protect your teeth from naturally drifting back to their previous positions in your mouth. It also assists with further stabilization. 

There are other reasons your teeth can shift in adulthood, however, including genetics, aging, tooth loss, and teeth grinding. 

How are orthodontic relapses treated?

There are generally a few different options we will recommend when addressing an orthodontic relapse. Most people will experience some level of minor tooth movement naturally as they grow older. This is because the bone and gums that support your teeth change as you age, which leads to slight drifting. Retainers can also become slightly distorted with wear, making them less effective over time. 

If you’ve always worn your retainer appropriately and have noticed only minor shifting with your teeth, we can often leave things as they are for the time being. We can monitor the teeth for any further movement, and take further action when or if it becomes necessary.  

Sometimes even minor tooth movement will warrant attention. In some cases, we can correct this by simply providing you with a new or replacement retainer. In fact, this will usually be one of the first things we do if you’ve lost or broken yours! Fixed retainers are typically good for maintaining the alignment of the lower teeth, while removable aligners are often recommended for the upper teeth.

What is retreatment?

During your examination with Dr. Davis or Dr. Goldberg, they may find that your orthodontic relapse is significant enough to warrant retreatment with braces or clear aligners. The good news is, retreatment usually takes less time than your original treatment. We also offer a wide variety of affordable treatment options to correct your relapse. 

Traditional metal braces

Traditional metal braces are the most popular orthodontic appliance and have a proven track record of efficiency. The brackets are made from a durable mix of stainless steel and affixed directly to the front of the teeth with a wire running through them. Today’s braces are more comfortable, effective, and stylish than ever before! They are known for delivering excellent results for cases that range from simple to complex.  

Clear braces

Clear braces are also referred to as ceramic braces and function the same way metal braces do. However, they have the added benefit of semi-translucent or tooth-colored ceramic brackets! These blend in better with a patient’s natural smile, particularly when they are paired with clear, white, or tooth-colored wires and elastics. 

Although clear braces are durable, the ceramic material can be more prone to chipping or cracking. They can also be slightly more costly than metal brackets. Because of this, we tend to recommend clear braces for our older teen and adult patients only. 

Invisalign clear aligners

Invisalign is our most popular alternative to braces! This innovative system uses a series of clear aligners to straighten the teeth instead of brackets and wires. The trays are made of a soft thermoplastic material and custom-designed to fit snugly over your teeth. Since they’re designed to be removable, patients have a bit more freedom during treatment! There are no food restrictions and oral hygiene is a breeze. 

Patient compliance is important with the Invisalign system, though. The aligners need to be worn for 20-22 hours per day throughout the treatment process in order to be effective. Each aligner must also be switched out for the next in the series every 1-2 weeks in order to keep up with the movement of the teeth. Failure to follow these guidelines can lead to longer treatment times and subpar results. 

Rediscover the smile you love at Davis & Goldberg Orthodontics

Whatever the reason for your orthodontic relapse, you can trust our expert team to recreate the smile you once had and improve your oral health in the process!  If you’re ready to get your smile back on track, get in touch today to schedule your FREE consultation with us in our High Point or Greensboro office.