It’s a fact of life that tooth position changes as you age. You see this most significantly in the growing child where growth of the jaws and the balance of the lip and tongue muscles will change tooth position. Change one thing and the dominant force will govern where the teeth end up. This is particularly true if baby teeth are lost early (usually due to decay) or if the adult tooth that replaces the baby tooth is missing or stuck in the gum.
Adolescent growth usually slows towards the mid-teens, but growth changes don’t really slow down until the early 20s. This is why retainers are so important for the growing patient. Once adulthood starts, there is slow and gradual age related changes to the teeth.
Significant tooth movement is unlikely unless there is underlying gum disease, but we generally find that any minor irregularities of the alignment of the teeth do worsen with age. So retention is important for any patient of any age.
We usually find that after braces come off, patients are really good with their removable retainers for a couple of years. However, life gets in the way and people stop wearing them as frequently. Once retention stops, teeth begin to move. Remember, all those factors that cause tooth movement are still there. So the only way to stop this is lifelong ‘retention’. In an ideal world, all orthodontic patients will wear their retainers forever but we know that it won’t happen.
As most people are concerned with what their front teeth look like, we always fit bonded retainers (securing the front teeth) for our private patients. This gives long term retention that doesn’t rely on the patient remembering to wear them! They are not permanent but will last a long time with minimal maintenance, and helps keep the smiles on our patient’s faces!