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Orthodontic treatment finally gave you the teeth that you had always wanted but now you see that they are moving back to their original positions. Your teeth may be in relapse. Find out why it happens and what can be done to prevent it.

Getting orthodontic treatment for yourself or your child can be a long, often expensive procedure. No one wants all that hard work to go waste if the teeth would return to where they started! Unfortunately, this happens in quite a few cases where some basic post procedural instructions were not followed or adequate time for the treatment to settle down was not provided.

This is where most of the trouble arises and a relapse of the orthodontic treatment can take place.

Why Do The Teeth Shift From Their Place?

The process by which teeth are moved from their original position to the desirable one with orthodontic movement involves the application of force, modification of bone and associated ligaments, and then allowing enough time for the movement to stabilize.

The new bone which has formed around the tooth may not be strong enough to support the tooth and thus movement away from the ideal position can occur quite easily. Similarly, the periodontal ligament, which attaches the teeth to the bone, needs time to remodel itself to the new position of the teeth.

If this adaptation does not occur, the periodontal ligament will just end up pulling the tooth back to its original position like a stretched out rubber band.

The third possible cause is one where the teeth apply deleterious forces to a portion of the jaw and cause some of the teeth to move out of position.

It is important to remember that there is an inherent genetic signal for the teeth to return to their original position which must be countered by moving the teeth in a position where they are functionally stable.   

How Can Relapse After Orthodontic Treatment Be Prevented?

After the phase of active movement which is carried out with the help of the braces, there is a phase of passive retention where Removable or fixed retainers are put in place to allow for the bone and periodontal ligament around the teeth to settle down.

The most common method used by doctors is through a simple Removable retainer that has a single wire running across the front of your teeth Depending upon the kind of position the teeth were in prior to treatment, retainers may be used for the upper arch or the lower arch or for both.

The duration for which these retainers have to be worn is variable, however around 6 months of usage is commonly advised. Patients are directed to wear these retainers at all times except during eating since it can be quite uncomfortable to eat with them on.

In some cases, the doctor may choose to put in place fixed retainers. This kind of retention, also called as permanent retention, involves a small wire running behind the back of your front teeth which has been bonded in position with a composite filling material.

The advantage of this method is that patient compliance is no longer an issue. Also, some situations like gaps in between the front teeth are much more prone to relapse than others. Having permanent retention in place will ensure that the possibility of relapse is eliminated.

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