getting my teeth right back where they started from...
April 1, 2011 3:06 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my teeth BACK IN LINE?! I miss my straight teeth!

I have seen this question but unfortunately there was no resolution to the problem? Anyways, I have had my braces off for about 6 or 7 years now and until recently my teeth have remained very very straight. In the past few years I have not worn my retainer every night (I have this type of clear, denture-like retainer unlike the previous poster) but whenever I noticed a gap forming between my two front teeth, I would just put my retainer on for that night and the next morning it would return to its previously-super-straight state. This little method has stopped working. I have a very thin gap between my two front teeth (kinda like this ) and on the bottom, one tooth is starting to cross over the other and I think an incisor? is jutting out a little. I have tried wearing my top retainer pretty much all last week and they just won't revert back to their formerly straight state :( (I would love it if my bottom teeth were straight too but my top front teeth are much more important to me)

Do I just need to try wearing my retainer for a longer period of time, like a month? I'm worried that it might get worse... My retainer still fits-- its tight and kinda hurts the next morning but it still fits. And it felt just as tight and achy back when my little one-night retainer use worked. Or do I need to return to the orthodontist? My mom is going to be incredibly pissed if it ends up costing a lot because she was always telling me to wear them.

If I do indeed have to go to the orthodontist, what is the likely procedure for fixing this? I won't have to get braces again, will I? Or have my teeth sanded down for veneers? :(

This site recommends finding an ortho "savvy with the Essix system of aligners and or the Hilgers thermoforming plier system. These aligners (in the right hands) can effectively and affordably improve your problem". On one hand, that doesn't sound too bad because I suppose my clear retainers are already Essix aligners? But on the other hand.. Eep! Pliers?!

I know that this seems like a frivolous, first-world problem, but I really do not want to just live with this gap in my teeth (no offense to anyone who has a gap... I just was SO incredibly proud of my straight teeth and it makes me sad that I messed them up by being lazy).

Thanks all!
posted by lovelygirl to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You probably need to go back to the orthodontist and get a permanent retainer put in place its a wire permanently cemented to the back of your teeth and that can make a slight correction and then keeps them from shifting from there. I have both my upper front and upper lower teeth wired in place this way and I forget they are even there.
posted by orange swan at 3:16 PM on April 1, 2011

The least you could do is take your present retainer to the ortho and get it properly adjusted again; perhaps you're in time for this to be effective, and things will just pull back in place. That shouldn't cost much money.
posted by Namlit at 3:30 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most orthodontists do free initial consults. Go speak to one, show him your retainer, and ask him this question. You've nothing to lose. It's possible that an adjustment to your current retainer could help, it's possible you would need something more powerful. You're probably not going to get a more definite answer online.

As a adult with braces myself, my impression is that many, many other adults with braces are those who didn't wear their retainers after their last round of braces.
posted by deadweightloss at 4:07 PM on April 1, 2011

From Ms. Vegetable, who wears her retainer every night, 13 years after getting her braces off:
Put your retainer in and wear it wear it WEAR IT until you can get to the orthodontist. Then, get thee to the orthodontist. I've had several retainers made since I got my braces off; it's about $200 per retainer (top or bottom), I think - so not cheap, but eons cheaper than either new braces or veneers. I highly doubt this will need to be veneers.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:32 PM on April 1, 2011

I don't think it's a problem of you being lazy, so don't be too tough on yourself. It's hard to beat down genetics. I, my mom, my mom's mom, and probably her mother before that all have the same slightly wonky lower incisor. After several years of permanent orthodontia and many more of the retainer, it became clear that that one little tooth was just not ever going to stay straight. My mom, assuming that I had somehow screwed it up by not wearing my retainer 100% of the time, had the same thing happen to her after she got adult braces (and wore her retainer all the time).

I am down with my wonky tooth.

It's cool if you're not, though. Like some of the above answers have mentioned, the best choice for you might be a permanent retainer, where they'll cement a wire behind your teeth to keep them in place. Personally, this would never be an acceptable answer for me, because I'm one of those people who flosses at least once a day, every day, and having to use a floss threader each time would harsh my groove.

One thing I do want to mention, though, is that for my uppers I had the same kind of clear plastic retainer you have. Wearing it gave me really, really awful TMJ that screwed my jaw up for several years and required some pretty heavy duty (though not surgical, thankfully) dental intervention. So do be careful.
posted by phunniemee at 4:39 PM on April 1, 2011

My dad is an orthodontist. He told me that, unless you wear your retainer nightly for the rest of your life, your teeth will go back to how they were pre-orthodontia.
posted by quiet coyote at 5:39 PM on April 1, 2011

The material that these retainers are made of will lose their retentive ability over time. The plastic just doesn't apply the same force to your teeth as it did when it was newly made. The new one may be able to move your teeth into place with certain "tweaks" incorporated into it. In any event, an orthodontist should be consulted in case other things have changed that may have caused your teeth to move.
posted by Cuspidx at 9:04 PM on April 1, 2011

If your retainers still fit, keep wearing them - but if it's not helping, see an orthodontist, they may be able to tighten your retainers in some way. If not, it'd be braces again - probably not for long, though.

What quiet coyote's father says about retainers is mostly true - if you never wear your retainer, your teeth will shift. But many people don't have to wear them every single night either.

I grind my teeth, which puts more pressure on them to move - so I do need to wear my retainers every single night. If I skip a night, the next night I can feel that my retainers feel tight - because my teeth are having to be moved back in to position, not just kept in place ('retained'). If you're waiting until your teeth have visible movement then that might be pushing the border of what your retainers can fix.
posted by Lady Li at 11:52 PM on April 1, 2011

I had this happen. I had my teeth straightened in high school, never wore the retainer. They unstraightened. I left seeing the orthodontist until I was 21 and had to have braces for another 12 months. When the second lot of braces came off, I had a permanent retainer (a wire) cemented to the back of my teeth. I don't feel the wire and can floss fine with regular floss. I'm 37 now and my teeth haven't shifted again. Moral: see orthodontist now!
posted by t0astie at 12:31 AM on April 2, 2011

My dad is an orthodontist. He told me that, unless you wear your retainer nightly for the rest of your life, your teeth will go back to how they were pre-orthodontia.

If I'd heard that, I never would have gotten braces.
And after getting 4 teeth out, my teeth are definitely *not* going to return to how they were. My retainer was a momentary blip many, many years ago, in conjuction with a wire cemented to the back of my bottom teeth, til it broke off a couple of years later, and *that* was well over a decade ago. My teeth are fine, and straight. If your teeth aren't? See an orthodontist before it gets expensive.
posted by Elysum at 12:54 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

unless you wear your retainer nightly for the rest of your life, your teeth will go back to how they were pre-orthodontia
Seconding Elysium's experience here. I had my teeth (for the second time) straightened at 24, wore retainers for a few years, left them out, and things have been pretty stable since then, half my life ago. The truth of this type of prediction totally depends on the type of correction.
posted by Namlit at 1:26 AM on April 2, 2011

FWIW, here's my bit of practical experience: in high school, I had 2 teeth pulled on top to correct an overbite, wore braces for years, retainers, wore all the devices diligently. Haven't worn anything since then. Now I'm in my late 40's, and over the last decade, I've noticed several teeth have shifted very noticeably, leaving significant gaps. Thankfully, at my age it no longer bothers me as much as it would have when I was younger. Still, it's visible enough that I'm thinking of doing something about it, especially since I wonder if it will only get worse.

My conclusion: teeth are very likely to shift back from significant corrections after enough time has passed (30 years for me), unless an intervention is applied. So I believe quiet coyote's statement, though Namlit may still be correct about a dependence on the type of correction originally performed.
posted by StrawberryPie at 9:19 AM on April 2, 2011

Firstly, teeth have a tendency to move toward the midline throughout life, this is called mesial drift. teeth that are aligned well will resist this more than teeth that have overlapping. overlapping will become exaggerated over time. this can be related to ortho relapse, but happens to most people.
Secondly, there are elastic fibers around teeth that contribute to ortho relapse. several orthodontists that i refer to ask me to do a fiberotomy after ortho is complete to reduce this relapse. My experience has been that this can be an effective tool in maintaining the post-ortho position of teeth.
i like to see fixed retainers as well, it eliminates the compliance issues in asking pts to remember to wear an appliance.

Have a consult, go from there.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:26 AM on April 2, 2011

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