There are many reasons why patients stop wearing their retainers – We lose them, stop wearing them because they get old or stop fitting and obviously dogs and retainers definitely don’t mix!
At recently as 10 years ago, many orthodontists would have recommended that adolescent patients wear their retainers for 1-2 years thinking that with healing and maturity that the teeth were now “set” in the new position and would stay that way.
Recent research has shown that retainers, whilst good at holding the position of teeth for those 1-2 years, won’t guarantee straight teeth forever. We now know that not only growth but aging have an effect on the position of our teeth.
Basically our teeth have the ability to drift. When we lived in caves and had coarse diets our teeth were worn down and became gappy. The tiny ligaments that run between the teeth would then pull them together to close the gaps moving the teeth together. The space behind them would then allow the 2nd Molar teeth and then eventually the wisdom teeth to come through straight. Neat system if you have tooth wear but not so great for modern diets that are more refined!
Our teeth still have the drifting ability today and this means they won’t stay straight without help. It also means, because we are living longer, as we age we are more likely to have crossing over of the front teeth so it’s really important to keep the position of our teeth straight and that means wearing a retainer long term.
See this great video put together by the British Orthodontic Society for their “hold that smile” campaign
But what happens if we have already stopped retainers and your teeth have moved?
The good news is you can have orthodontics again providing you have healthy teeth and gums. Having a check-up is your first step to make sure treatment if ok for you to do. You will need to be assessed by, ideally, an orthodontist as your treatment may involve more than simply just lining them up again.
Planning the treatment properly is also an important factor in how straight they will remain in the future so make sure you are choosing the most effective treatment rather than the fastest or cheapest one as it could end up costing you more long term.