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Orthodontic Relapse: Causes and What to Do

Many individuals get orthodontic treatment to help correct the positioning of their teeth or an improper bite. The treatment can either be cosmetic to help improve a person’s appearance, but it can also enhance oral functions. The duration of the treatment can be limiting in terms of diet and activities which is why most people are relieved when their dentists finally take off their braces.

However, for some people, orthodontic relapse happens. Here’s the lowdown on this condition, its causes, and treatment:

What Is Orthodontic Relapse?

The teeth have a tendency to move back to their original position even after a dentist declares the orthodontic treatment complete. This shifting of teeth is known as orthodontic relapse. This happens when teeth return to their positions prior to treatment. Most of the time, the relapse is caused by the patient’s failure to consistently wear the retainers provided after the primary orthodontic treatment.

Dentists recommend that patients religiously show up on follow up appointments. They will be assessed on the 2nd, 6th, and 18th months after the orthodontic braces are removed. Patients will be provided with retainers that they can wear while waiting for their teeth to finally settle into their new positions.

The retainers can be worn for a couple of weeks or longer depending on the relapse tendency. Most dentists would use a permanent wire retainer for teeth with a higher shifting tendency. Some patients may have removable retainers that they can wear the whole day or while sleeping.

What Causes Orthodontic Relapse?

Jaw correction and teeth straightening don’t happen overnight. Depending on the severity of the misalignment, it can take years to complete treatment. This is why it can be frustrating for patients to find that their teeth have shifted a few months after their dentist had cleared them.

Here are the likely causes of orthodontic relapse:

Incomplete orthodontic treatment

The first reason for most relapse cases is if the orthodontic treatment was not completed. There are many reasons why patients opt to stop their treatments. This may be because they’ve moved, are unable to support the orthodontic treatment costs, or have a low tolerance for pain. Regardless of the reason, an unfinished treatment will always give unsatisfactory results.

Miscalculation of the malocclusion of the teeth

Malocclusion of the teeth is a misalignment problem that can be resolved with braces. However, miscalculations can occur, especially if the causative factor has not been removed. For example, a molar intrusion in the future can affect the result of the treatment leading to a shift.

Lack of monitoring

Orthodontic treatment requires commitment if you want to achieve the desired outcome. There may be changes in the teeth or gums that can directly affect the result of the treatment.

It is important to show up to every orthodontic appointment. If no monitoring or follow up checks are made, the issue may not be properly addressed and lead to relapse.

Lack of patient compliance

Some patients do not always comply with the instructions given to them by their dentists. From missed appointments and eating prohibited food to poor oral hygiene, many patients do not understand that their actions make up half of the results they expect to see.

For the best results, you need to follow the dos and don’ts of wearing braces. If these are ignored, it can yield an unsatisfactory result or take a longer time for the treatment to be completed.

Not enough time for the teeth to set

Many patients want quick results. Because of the pressure they put on their dentists, the treatment process may end up being compressed into a couple of months fewer than necessary.

Taking the “faster route” does not guarantee the best results. Teeth need time to adjust and settle into the correct positions.

Continuing bad habits

Teeth grinding, sucking on candies, eating sticky or hard food, smoking, and missing dental checkups — most of these habits may seem innocent, but they can have negative effects on your orthodontic treatment.

Poor regard for your oral health can also affect the alignment of your teeth since gum problems cause the erosion of enamel and even tooth loss. If you want to enjoy straighter teeth, drop these habits to avoid the adverse effects on your teeth.

What to Do in Case of an Orthodontic Relapse

A relapse is not considered one of the orthodontic emergencies, but it remains a cause for concern. If properly addressed at the soonest possible time, it can be resolved. Here are some things that can help if you encounter teeth shifting:

  1. Consult with your dental care provider
    Have your dentist assess your condition as soon as possible. The sooner you get it checked, the sooner your problem can be resolved.
  2. Monitor your condition
    Even if you are constantly wearing your retainers, you may notice a minor shifting of the teeth. You can choose to let it go on or take monitoring measures to prevent further shifting. Your family dentist can help with the monitoring but if you prefer a more proactive approach, going directly to your dentist would be a good move.
  3. Have new retainers if needed
    When the orthodontic retainers you wear after completing your treatment no longer fit due to the shifting of your teeth, you need new ones. Visit your dentist to have new ones installed to prevent further shifting.
  4. Submit to re-treatment
    If the relapse is significant, your next visit to the orthodontic office is best be for re-treatment. There are different options that you will be offered – metal braces, clear braces, or Invisalign. It may mean another journey with orthodontic elastics and orthodontic wax but it is sometimes the best option if you want to keep your teeth straight and your bite correct.

It can take some time before you achieve that perfect smile. However, if you follow the advice of your trusted dental professional, it will be well worth the time and effort. Should you experience an orthodontic relapse, seek professional help. It doesn’t matter whether you’re seeing an orthodontic practitioner vs. a dentist. The important thing is to see someone who can address the issue.

For a broader range of services, approach a family dentist. Our team at Dr. Urszula Barrios’ clinic is here for you. We offer excellent dental care services to help you care for your pearly whites. Set an appointment by calling (519)-767-6453.

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