What To Do if Teeth Shift Back After Braces? How To Fix

a woman smiling holding up a dental model with braces and a clear aligner

I had braces twice. Soon after I got my braces off the first time, one of my bottom front teeth shifted. As a dental hygiene student at the time, I had a significant focus on my teeth and the perfect alignment, and I was worried about what to do about my teeth shifting and how to fix them! But, what do you do if teeth shift back after braces? Is there a quick fix?

If teeth shift back after braces, see your dental professional as soon as possible. Sometimes a simple retainer adjustment can solve the problem and move the teeth back into place. In cases of more extensive shifting, braces or aligners may need to be used to shift teeth back to the ideal position.

Teeth shifting after braces can be devastating (it was for me), especially because of how expensive and the long duration of treatment is. And sometimes it can happen quickly or after many years after treatment is complete.

In this post, I go over what to do and teeth shifting after braces, and how to fix teeth that have shifted, my experience with shifting teeth, and what you need to consider before doing anything!

Shifting teeth after braces/Invisalign: What to do and how to fix

If you notice that one or multiple of your teeth have shifted, the first thing you want to do is contact your orthodontist, preferably the individual who did the initial treatment, to let them know.

They may ask some questions about how long the teeth have been shifted for, if you still have your retainers, what type or retainers they are, how long ago you got your braces off, and what your goals are.

Please don’t wait until your next dental appointment because sometimes teeth can shift quickly, and there could be a wait/delay to get an appointment due to their schedule being fully booked.

Read now: Perfect Bite: How Teeth Should Line up and Come Together

Please, do not try and put your retainers back on your teeth if they do not go on easily. Bring your retainers to your dental appointment with the orthodontist so they can assess and deem it safe to put them on.

Below is what can occur if an ill-fitting retainer is put back on the teeth after shifting.

Prevent tooth damage: Do not force ill-fitting retainer on the teeth!

The reason I stress about seeing an orthodontist before you do anything is that not doing so can result in damage to the teeth and gums.

If the old retainer does not fit over the teeth and is forced on, if the movement is too quick for the tooth, it could damage the nerve, causing the tooth to die and an infection to start forming. The tooth will need a root canal to save it and a crown to protect the top of the tooth.

By forcing the retainer on, cracking and chipping could occur on the teeth, or the retainer could impinge on the gum tissue, causing irritation and recession.

When too much force is applied to the tooth, it can cause bone loss that is not recoverable. Bone loss around the teeth can cause them to become mobile and lead to premature tooth loss. It’s not just bone that can be lost.

Root resorption can occur too, where the tooth’s root starts to break down and dissolve and make the tooth shorter. With a shorter root, there is not as much support of bone around the tooth, which can also contribute to the tooth becoming loose and premature tooth loss.

My original Hawley retainer. (It still fits!)

My personal experience with shifting teeth after braces

I had my first round of braces on for just under two years. My orthodontist took off my braces and gave me an oral appliance called a tooth positioner that fit over both my top and bottom teeth and had air holes made through the front so I could still breathe (it was not pleasant).

This appliance is excellent for refining how the teeth bite together. However, mine was too soft around the bottom front teeth, and I had a tooth that ended up shifting.

The orthodontist knew I was compliant at wearing it, but unfortunately, I was unlucky, and my bottom front teeth moved too fast.

I am fortunate to have had an honest orthodontist who admitted that he probably took my braces off too early, and the only option was to put them back on to correct the shifting tooth. Luckily, only my bottom teeth needed the braces as my top teeth didn’t shift.

My orthodontist felt terrible because he knew how much I was looking forward to a perfect smile after braces and that he took the braces off too early.

So he offered to put them back on my teeth for free as it was his mistake. I really respected that, and at that moment, it taught me how important being honest and caring is and that I wanted to be like that when I became a dental hygienist.

So long story short, I had the braces put back on, and I had them on for about one year. I was a little upset at first, but now it was so long ago that I don’t ever think about it! It was worth it! And my teeth have stayed straight ever since, as I still wear my retainers every night.

How do you fix shifted teeth after braces?

If there is a very small amount of movement to be corrected, the orthodontist may advise that the old retainers can be worn again. But the retainers have to be the ones that they made right away from the moulds of the teeth that are taken right after the braces come off.

Read now: Braces: What Age Is Too Late? Dental Hygienist Explains!

Some offices will use old school alginate impressions (the goopy stuff), fill the impressions with stone, and often don’t keep them after as they pile up.

But, a lot of offices have intraoral scanners that make a digital 3D model of the teeth that can be 3D printed over and over again. If you have a digital scan of your teeth right after you got your braces off they could use this to make another retainer for you. But this will require the teeth to not have shifted too much.

If the teeth have not shifted too much and the old retainer can be put back on, it is essential to wear the retainers all day and night for three months (except when eating and drinking anything but water). Wearing the retainers consistently will help solidify the bone around the teeth for support.

After the continuous wear, wearing the retainers at night while you sleep for the rest of your life is essential. Retention of the position of the teeth can only be done with appliances. There are so many forces on the teeth that can cause shifting that we cannot control over time. I explain them below!

If you ever have any dental work done, make sure to bring your retainers with you so the dentist can ensure that they will fit after the dental work is complete.

Why do teeth shift after braces?

Teeth are attached to the jaw bone by periodontal ligaments. Periodontal ligaments are like elastics that can stretch and move and, when pulled and pushed, can break down and build bone tissue. The ligaments have a “memory” that will want to return the tooth to the original tooth placement.

By wearing properly fitted retainers immediately after getting the braces off and finishing the treatment, the teeth are unlikely to move. But sometimes life gets in the way, retainers are lost, and time keeps moving.

I always tell my patients to wear their retainers for as long as they want their teeth straight. 

Below are the seven reasons why teeth shift after braces;

  1. lack of wearing for proper amount of time
  2. waiting too long to start wearing retainers after braces are taken off
  3. grinding and clenching
  4. gum disease
  5. aging (our bone remodels and bone structure changes)
  6. missing teeth that cause gaps
  7. injuries to the mouth

Will my teeth go back to normal if I wear my retainer?

If the movement of the teeth is very minimal, there is a possibility that the retainer can move the teeth back into the proper alignment. If the teeth have moved too much, unfortunately, orthodontic treatment will have to be re-done with braces or aligners to achieve proper alignment again.

If you have a retainer, don’t force it on the teeth, as it can cause damage if the teeth have moved too much. The dental professional will tell you if it is safe or not. 

Read now: White Spots from Braces; Are They Permanent?

I hope I have helped you find the information you were looking for!

Have a wonderful day,

Holly 🙂

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