Can teeth move after braces?

Yes, they absolutely can. In fact, teeth move slightly all the time in reaction to the constantly changing forces in our mouths. As we age, the natural result of all these changing forces tends to be crowding. Increased crowding through adulthood is most commonly associated with habits of clenching or grinding your teeth. Many of us often experience increased periods of clenching or grinding throughout our lives due to stress, or other factors. This habit alone can cause significant tooth movement over time, but other oral habits can shift tooth position as well. Some of these habits include:

  • Smoking
  • Constantly drinking with a straw
  • Holding the tongue between the teeth (often in a misguided effort to break a clenching habit)
  • Mouth-breathing as a result of allergies or other breathing issues
  • Tongue-thrusting habits during speech or swallowing.

There is also a great deal of evidence to suggest that patients who undergo orthodontic treatment as adults may be more likely to see their teeth relapse without some kind of long-term retention, even without some of the above-mentioned habits. This may be related to the concept of body memory, meaning that the longer the teeth stay in a particular position after initial eruption, the more likely they may be to try to return to that position once they have been moved.

For all of the above reasons, it is generally recommended that anyone of any age who has completed any type of orthodontic treatment should at least wear removable retainers every night during sleep for life in order to prevent relapse. In some cases, it may also be necessary to wear a bonded retainer that is cemented to the backs of the upper or lower front teeth for optimal retention.


Related Articles:
Orthodontic Treatment and Services
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Orthodontics
Functional Orthodontics for Adults
Functional Orthodontics for Kids and Teens


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