DR. PAUL HANRAHAN
TOWNSVILLE ORTHODONTIC SPECIALISTS
Discussing the reasons for unwanted tooth movement and how to keep your beautiful smile for life.
Teeth will always move throughout life. From when teeth first form in the bone, they can travel up to 60 millimetres as they erupt into the mouth. They continue to move during the transition from baby to adult teeth and their positions change as the facial bones change. All of the following factors are important: tongue, cheeks, lips, breathing patterns, chewing, swallowing and habits.
Failure to understand and correct the factors responsible for crooked teeth undoubtedly leads to relapse or re-occurrence of the original problems. So-called ‘quick’ or partial treatments have virtually no hope of stability.
Orthodontic treatment re-models the bone and ligaments around the teeth. Teeth ligaments (i.e. periodontal ligaments) stretch during orthodontic treatment and act like rubber bands. A previously crooked tooth has elastic ‘memory’ of its original position. This ‘memory’ and stretch of the ligament is a significant cause of relapse if retainers are not worn.
Wisdom teeth are often blamed for crowding in young adults because both occur at the same time. This is true for only 14% of cases. Wisdom tooth removal does not guarantee that your teeth will stay straight! Up to 25% of people are missing their wisdom teeth from birth and these patients still develop crowding!
The main factor involved in late crowding is late growth of the lower jaw. The upper jaw usually stops growing at 15 years of age, however, the lower jaw can grow significantly until 18-20 years of age. This growth pushes the upper front teeth forward (causing movement of the upper teeth) and the lower teeth can become restrained by the upper teeth (resulting in crooked lower teeth).
Long-term studies clearly show that facial bones never stop changing with age. Everything changes with time! (i.e. bones, skin and teeth etc!) Gum disease is a leading cause of unwanted tooth movement. Maintaining a healthy mouth is crucial for keeping straight teeth!
Custom-fit retainers are always provided by your Orthodontist to prevent relapse. There are several types of these retainers (e.g. bonded wire behind your teeth and/or a clear removable retainer). Retainers will not work unless they are worn or if they are broken. Retainer wear and care are the responsibility of the patient. Fifty percent of patients stop wearing their removable retainers within 2 years and many don’t keep their fixed retainer wires beyond 8 years (often following breakage of the wire). Relapse causes much frustration for parents who have invested a lot of money in their child’s mouth, only to see things move due to poor compliance with retainers.
The second key to successful retention is its duration. There is no recognised end-point to retention. Consider your retainers as pyjamas for your teeth!
1. Seek your treatment from a fully qualified Specialist Orthodontist (Weekend courses will never be a substitute for 3 years of full-time university training). If your practitioner needs to ask someone else for advice, they shouldn’t be treating you!
2. High quality outcomes take time. Quick fixes don’t work.
3. Please follow all instructions! People with beautiful teeth always do this.
4. Contact your Orthodontist at the first sign of poor fit and as soon as possible if you lose or break them.
5. Retainers are like diamonds. That is, forever!
6. Smile everyday because you know it takes so little to keep your teeth straight for life.