If you’ve had orthodontic treatment in the past, you may believe your newly straightened smile is set in stone. As time goes on, you may find those orthodontic corrections backsliding and your teeth shifting back into their old positions. This can be concerning if you’ve spent a long time treating your well-earned smile. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one!

Here at Bennett Orthodontics, we see adult patients all the time who are experiencing what is called an orthodontic relapse. The teeth they spent so much time straightening have begun to shift, and they want to know if there’s a way we can do to get them back on track again. Lucky for our patients, there is a solution!

Dr. Bennett has years of experience working with orthodontic patients of all ages. This includes adults who need touch-up treatment to correct an orthodontic relapse. Let’s take a closer look at what can cause an orthodontic relapse, why you should treat it, and what we can do to help you perfect your smile once again!

What is an orthodontic relapse?

Orthodontic relapse is the tendency of the teeth to return to the original positions they were in before orthodontic treatment. Short-term relapse happens less than one year after the completion of treatment. Long-term relapse occurs more than a year after finishing treatment. 

Orthodontic relapse is a fairly common occurrence. Some studies estimate that more than 50% of patients experience some level of relapse within ten years of finishing their treatment. The potential for relapse is why orthodontists have changed their approach to retainer wear in recent years. In the past, many adults dealing with relapse were told they could discontinue wearing their retainers after a year or two. Nowadays, orthodontists agree that retainers should be worn for life.

Don’t let that scare you! In most cases, you’ll only need to wear your retainers at night after the first few months. This will be enough to stabilize your newly straightened smile and help keep your teeth in their optimal positions.

Retreatment Options for Adults

What causes an orthodontic relapse? 

The most common reason teeth shift after orthodontic treatment is not using a retainer as directed by an orthodontist. Many patients underestimate the importance of retainers, especially once a bit of time has passed. It’s important to remember that the work doesn’t stop once your braces come off! 

Once the first phase of treatment is complete, the teeth, surrounding bone, and gums still need time to settle into their new locations. Wearing your retainers as directed by Dr. Bennett will help restrain your teeth from moving back to their previous positions and assist with the stabilization effort over time. There are other contributing factors for them as well. These include, but are not limited to:

Genetics and natural aging

Genetics can give you a straight smile to work with. However, you may still experience some natural shifting of your teeth as time goes on. This is a common occurrence because, whether you had braces in the past or not, the back teeth tend to shift forward over time. This reduces the amount of space available for the front teeth, which get crowded out of the arch alignment.

Teeth grinding

Patients who suffer from chronic tooth grinding will already know the damage it can cause. The force places a strain on teeth over time that can alter the bite and result in misalignment. 

Tooth loss

If you’ve lost teeth to trauma, decay, or periodontal disease, the teeth surrounding that empty space can begin to drift towards it over time. If this is left uncorrected, it can eventually lead to misalignment of the teeth and the bite. A smaller problem can worsen and lead to other problems over time, so it’s important to let us check things ahead of time!

How is orthodontic relapse treated?

It can be alarming to see your teeth shifting for any reason, but our expert orthodontic office is here to help! There are a few different options when it comes to addressing an orthodontic relapse.

Monitoring the teeth

Even with perfect compliance and the best retainer, you may still experience some very minor tooth movement over time. As we discussed above, the bone and gums that support your teeth change as you age, and retainers can become slightly distorted with wear. If you’ve worn your retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Bennett, we can leave things as they are for the time being and just monitor your teeth for any further shifting.

Creating new retainers

There are certain types of minor movements we’ll want to treat, and these cases can be corrected with a new or replacement retainer. If you’ve lost or broken your retainer, this will be one of the first things we do. Fixed retainers are good for maintaining the alignment of the lower teeth, while removable aligners will typically be recommended for the upper teeth. 


If you have a more significant relapse, we may recommend retreatment with braces or aligners. As an adult, you might resist the idea of wearing traditional braces again, but we’re able to offer a wide variety of treatment options to correct your relapse. These include visually discreet options like clear braces and Invisalign clear aligners. 

What are the benefits of retreatment?

Starting retreatment can feel overwhelming, but there are good reasons for addressing your orthodontic relapse! One is improved oral health. Crowded teeth create crevices where food particles can accumulate, leading to plaque and tartar buildup. Teeth that are properly spaced and aligned are easier to keep clean with a good dental hygiene routine. 

Retreatment can give you back the aligned smile you had before. This can help you feel more confident in your daily life, and improve your overall self-esteem. The good news is that correcting a relapse often takes much less time than your original treatment. Whether you choose braces or aligner treatment with Bennett Orthodontics to correct your orthodontic relapse, the results will be more than worth it when you recognize your smile in the mirror again.

Retreatment Options for Adults

Get the best at Bennett Orthodontics

No matter where you are in your orthodontic journey, you deserve the best care provided by the best team. Bennett Orthodontics is here to help you get and keep the smile you deserve, right in time for the summer season. Dr. Bennett will create a personalized treatment plan just for you and provide unmatched care for all your appointments. Since orthodontics is his primary specialty, Dr. Bennett and his expert team have the skills and experience necessary to give you the best treatment that is cost-efficient and effective.

If you still have questions about getting and taking care of an aligner, our eager and well-trained orthodontic team would love to chat with you for your FREE consultation to get you started on your treatment journey. There is no pressure or obligation to enter a treatment plan. We offer useful individualized information to help you decide what is right for you.