Gaps after braces: why they happen and what to do.
Dr. Todd Ehrler
Table of Contents
- Braces & Aligners
- Movement after Treatment
- Protect Your Investment
- When a Gap Forms
You invested in a better smile. You followed the plan to the letter. Now, when you smile, you notice gaps after braces. What happened?
Braces and aligners should permanently change your smile. But it's common for your teeth to move a bit throughout your life. And a few decisions you make after formal treatment is complete could make your teeth move even more.
If your teeth move after braces, don't despair. Your dental team can help. But if you wait too long to ask for assistance, you might need to start treatment all over again for the best results.
How do braces and aligners work?
Before you can understand why your teeth might move after treatment is through, you'll need to learn more about the mechanics of orthodontics. It might surprise you to learn how quickly your teeth move, and you might be shocked at how fast they can take up old positions.
Braces and aligners work by applying constant pressure to the tops of your teeth. You'll notice the shift at the crowns of your teeth. But there's a lot happening deep below the gum line.
Your teeth are connected to your jaw via ligaments, which are strong, stretchy fibers. They are a lot like the tendons that hold your muscles to your bones. They should stay firmly attached, but they have a bit of flex and pull to them.
Dentists explain that these fibers can stretch during orthodontic treatment. When it happens slowly enough, the bones at the bottom of your teeth respond by rebuilding. Bone breaks down, and other bone builds up.
But when your braces come off, dentists explain, the elastic tissues want to return to their original position. It's a bit like a rubber band. You can pull and pull on the tissue, and it can take on a new shape and form. But if you let go, it will try to snap back to the original shape.
Your teeth will move after treatment.
It's not realistic to expect that your teeth will stay in the same position for the rest of your life, experts say. Once the pressure of braces or aligners is released, your teeth can and will begin to move once again. But other factors can also play a role.
Your teeth don't move solely because of braces or aligners. Teeth can also move due to:
Some of these issues can't be corrected. You can't stop yourself from talking or chewing, for example, and your wisdom teeth may appear whether you want them or not. But there are plenty of things you could do after treatment that could make your teeth move.
You may not protect your smile after braces or aligners due to:
Avoiding Your Retainer
Wearing The Wrong Retainer
Researchers can't prove that one retainer is better than another. In studies, almost any retainer can do a good job of keeping teeth close to their post-treatment placement.
But the retainers won't work and help your teeth unless you wear them. If you skip this step, you could see your teeth move dramatically.
How to protect your investment.
It's clear that wearing retainers is one of the best ways to ensure that you don't develop gaps in your teeth after braces. But there are many other steps you can take to keep your smile looking its best.
Make sure gaps are minimized by:
Using Your Teeth Appropriately
Keeping Things Clean
Staying In Touch With Your Treatment Team
What happens when a gap forms?
You've followed all the steps, and you still have a gap in your teeth. It happens, and your dental team can help.
Some aligner companies offer guarantees. If you can prove that you followed each step to the letter and gaps formed, you can get another round of treatment at no cost and get back to a healthy smile.
Orthodontists may not offer the same protections, but it's worthwhile to ask if problems appear. Your doctor may surprise you.
If not, you could consider another form of treatment. If you used braces the first time, for example, aligners could be a good choice for dental corrections after treatment ends.
If gaps are very small, your doctor may use modified retainers to push your teeth back into place. But if the gaps are bigger, you may need another round of treatment with aligners or braces to ensure that your teeth move back into position.
Thankfully, these adjustments are usually small, and they can be accomplished relatively quickly. But the sooner you ask for help, the better.
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Your Teeth Have Moved After Braces. What Now? (February 2017). Sensu.
Adult Braces: More People Paying Thousands for Straighter Teeth. (September 2019). BBC.
3 Tips to Prevent Your Teeth From Shifting After Braces. Parks Orthodontics.
Sleep-Related Movement Disorders: Teeth Grinding. (December 2009). The Sleep Foundation.
Retention Procedures for Stabilising Tooth Position After Treatment With Orthodontic Braces. (January 2016). Cochrane Reviews.