Our teeth come with a nasty social habit: They always want to move toward each other. Not only is this annoying tendency a real headache for orthodontists and dentists; it is also a major pain for the patient who has already invested time and money in metal appliances and braces. Bad enough, as a teenager, to have to endure braces for the junior prom; to have to go through the whole process all over again, as a grownup, just doesn’t seem fair!
Our teeth like to travel in several different directions:
- First, the teeth in one arch try to move toward the ones in the other arch: Bottoms like to go upward, and tops like to go downward.
- Second, all the teeth like to move toward the front, and, when they do, they crowd the front teeth and wreak havoc on the once beautiful smile.
- Finally, because of the imbalance between two powerful sets of muscles, the teeth on either side like to move inward. When the muscles that close the jaws apply inward pressure on the teeth, then, to balance the pressure, the muscles in the tongue apply outward pressure.
To prevent these natural migrations habits of our teeth, after the straightening process has been completed, orthodontists use different types of retention appliances. They sometimes choose to bond retainer wire to the backside of the lower-front six teeth. Since the lower teeth fit inside the upper teeth, they influence the crowding or flaring of upper teeth and that is why, to prevent overall relapse of the front teeth, it is important to keep the lower-front teeth straight.
That takes care of the upper teeth, but now, because of the different muscle forces at work, the back teeth are still susceptible to inward movement. While a number of orthodontic challenges are best handled by conventional braces, the use of Invisalign can treat cases of orthodontic relapse exceptionally well. Invisalign uses a series of clear removable aligners, which are custom fabricated for each individual patient to straighten teeth without the use of metal braces, wires or brackets.
Watch the video of one of my recent Invisalign cases, and observe as the front teeth that have relapsed move back to the same position they were in immediately after the patient’s braces were removed, years earlier. This was one happy patient!
So, what can you do to prevent orthodontic relapse? Just maintain a healthful diet and good dental hygiene, floss, and, above all, wear your retainer.
Remember, staying beautiful takes maintenance!