Anyone who made the effort to straighten teeth by wearing braces for a year or more during their youth may find teeth shifting back into a crooked state later on in life. What happened? Even with the braces, the brackets, the wires, the frequent adjustments, the inconvenience of brushing and flossing all the time, and the ‘metal mouth’ remarks, why do teeth shift back in place?
Many post-orthodontic patients experience what is called an ‘orthodontic relapse’—a phenomenon wherein the teeth shift slowly out of alignment following treatment. Most of the time, this calls for another round of braces or aligners to correct.
Why Teeth Shift Back
The shifting of the teeth after the removal of braces happens because of a number of factors, including genetics, tooth loss, habitual teeth grinding (propels the lower jaw forward and puts pressure on the upper row of the teeth, causing the teeth to fall out of alignment), and wisdom tooth eruption (pushes the lower teeth closer together, affecting alignment).
Another factor is when the patient stops wearing their retainers.
When the brackets of braces are done with the job, an orthodontist provides retainers because teeth become a little mobile while the bone stabilizes around the tooth root. The retainers make sure the teeth stay in their new position.
Because the human body is constantly changing, the teeth can shift throughout a person’s life. Teeth that come in perfectly straight naturally, or are set up that way by an orthodontist are not going to stay that way. By wearing the retainer for as long and as often as prescribed by the dentist, patients can keep their teeth straight for longer.
How Teeth Move
Teeth move in two directions. They can erupt towards the ones in the opposite arch—those that are on the lower row erupt upwards, while the upper ones go downwards. Another type of tooth movement is that when the powerful muscles that close the jaws apply more pressure inward, while the teeth go in an outward direction. The pressure they create then forces the back teeth inwards.