3 Reasons for Orthodontic Relapse as an Adult

Categories: Orthodontics

orthodontic relapseSCOTTS VALLEY, SANTA CRUZ CA

It took years and a major financial investment for you to undergo orthodontic treatment to straighten your teeth. Now you’re an adult. That retainer you received gets worn less often, if at all—assuming you know where it is. You’re not alone. Orthodontic relapse, which is when your teeth become misaligned years after having had braces, is estimated to affect up to half of all adults who had orthodontic treatment earlier in life. In this article, our Scotts Valley neuromuscular dentists at Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry explore this issue and why orthodontic relapse happens.

Orthodontic relapse is about more than retainer use

Many in the orthodontic field cite lack of retainer use as the culprit behind relapse. The theory is that the teeth shift following treatment because the teeth, their surrounding bone structure, and gum tissue have not solidified in their new, straighter alignment. Bruxism (the clinical term for teeth grinding), the loss of permanent teeth, and aging also have been cited as reasons that orthodontic relapse occurs.

Now for the hard truth: treating any of these issues may do nothing to address the root, “hidden” causes that can lead to orthodontic relapse. If you experience relapse as an adult, it’s likely due to another factor or another oral health condition that causes the teeth to shift.

The 3 Real Reasons for Orthodontic Relapse

  • Orofacial myofunctional disorders – Also known as an OMD, an orofacial myofunctional disorder is a negative habit that develops due to a malfunction in the musculature of the mouth and/or tongue. In most cases, an OMD develops during infancy or early childhood, but it never receives treatment. Disorders that qualify as OMDs include, but are not limited to, the following: sucking the thumb and/or fingers, tongue thrust, reverse swallow, open mouth posture, tongue or lip-ties, or mouth breathing.
  • Tongue-ties – Ever heard of a “restricted lingual frenum”? This phrase might be a mouthful to say, but it’s also the clinical term for a tongue-tie. It’s a thin string of tissue connecting the bottom of the tongue to the floor of your mouth. Sometimes this frenum is too thick or short, restricting the tongue’s range of motion. Tongue-ties are present from birth; if not diagnosed and treated, it may cause a host of negative consequences, impacting your ability to eat, speak, and breathe, eventually impacting the alignment of your teeth.
  • Improper rest oral posture – Take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? Are you breathing with your mouth open or closed? Are your teeth together? How about the placement of the tongue in your mouth? Is it resting against the roof of your mouth or lying low in your mouth. Whenever you are not eating or speaking, this is called rest oral posture—and just like your overall posture, there’s a correct and incorrect one. In this case, the optimum rest oral posture consists of having the lips closed, teeth closed, and tongue resting gently against the roof of the mouth. If you cannot maintain this rest oral posture, it can lead to a variety of problems, including mouth breathing, the narrowing of the upper dental arch, and negative shifts in the alignment of your teeth.

Myofunctional Therapy in Scotts Valley

If an OMD, rest oral posture or a tongue-tie is at the root of your orthodontic relapse, this issue needs to be treated before attempts are made to correct the alignment of your teeth. Otherwise, your teeth will likely misalign again. At Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry, we offer a method of treatment called myofunctional therapy. This consists of a series of exercises that work the tongue and the muscles of the lips and mouth to encourage proper rest oral posture, and nasal breathing. Consider them a method of physical therapy for your orofacial system, re-training those muscles to function as they should. We also can help adults and children achieve straight teeth through our orthodontic treatments in Scotts Valley. Whether you’re interested in braces for kids or clear aligners for adults, we can help! To find out more, schedule a consultation by calling us at (831) 438-4411 if you’re located in the areas of Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Scotts Valley, California.