How do you stop your teeth shifting after braces? We can help!

Orthodontic treatment can straighten your teeth, improve your oral health, and create the smile of your dreams. But what happens when the braces or Invisalign® come off? Will your teeth stay put, or can your teeth move? It’s best to know what happens after the braces or Invisalign comes off. It takes months, at least, for your teeth to move to the right places. So, of course, the teeth aren’t going to stop the day the braces go. Without a way to stop them, they’ll shift back toward their old positions. Luckily, there are ways to stop them.

At Hodges Orthodontics, not only do we want you to get that perfect smile, but we also want you to keep it. Let’s take a look at the best ways to ensure that a gorgeous new smile sticks around for a lifetime.

How do I stop my teeth from moving?

So how do you stop your teeth from moving once the braces or clear aligners come off? That’s where your retainer comes in! The retainer holds your teeth in place while the bone hardens. Even afterward, though, the teeth can shift a bit, which is why you need to wear your retainer as prescribed — winch includes wearing it at night from now on.

At Hodges Orthodontics, we offer two types of retainers. Dr. Hodges will recommend which type is best for you.

Hawley retainers

When you hear the word “retainers,” you probably think of the Hawley retainers. These are made of acrylic, which is custom-molded to the roof of your mouth and your gumline. A wire fits around your teeth to hold them into place.

Hawley retainers are the tried-and-true retainers used once braces come off. If the retainer doesn’t seem to fit properly over time (because you may not be wearing them long enough each day), we can adjust the wire so they fit better. We offer Hawley retainers as an option, but most of our patients prefer the more modern clear retainers.

Clear retainers

Clear retainers are some of the latest technology in orthodontic treatment. Clear retainers are similar to Invisalign clear aligners and are often preferred by our Invisalign patients. The clear retainer is custom-designed to match your teeth, so they fit perfectly and hold the teeth in place. That way, you can keep your beautiful smile!

Unlike Hawley retainers, clear retainers can’t be adjusted. They have to be remade if they cease to fit properly (again, because they aren’t being worn enough). It’s another good reason to wear your retainers properly!

Will my teeth move back after braces?

Without using your retainers, your teeth will move back toward their original position. They may not move all the way, but they’ll move enough to undo much of the hard work you’ve put in all those months with braces or clear aligners!

That’s why it’s so important to wear your retainers as prescribed by Dr. Hodges. Your retainers keep your teeth from shifting back once the braces come off. Without your retainers, your teeth will begin moving back almost immediately. It may take months, if not a year or two, for you to notice how much your teeth have moved, but you will definitely notice sooner or later.

How do my teeth move?

You may be wondering exactly how braces work to move teeth. The short answer is that constant pressure from the braces moves your teeth. But exactly how does that work? Well, that requires a little anatomy lesson.

Your teeth are socketed into the bones of your jaw. The upper bone is the maxillary, and the lower bone is the mandible. The tooth is secured by the root, which is held in place by the bone and a cushion of tissue called the periodontal ligament, or PDL. This ligament runs all the way around the tooth root or roots (the back teeth have more than one). The ligament essentially is an even width all the way around the roots. It’s sort of like a glove on your hand.

Your bone isn’t like a hard rock. It’s living tissue that builds up and breaks down thanks to special cells. Osteoclasts break down the bone, while osteoblasts build it up again. So, for example, if you break a bone, osteoblasts will rebuild the bone by filling in the fracture.

When you wear braces, they put pressure on the tooth and move it to one side or another. This will cause the PDL to shrink as the tooth pushes against it and swell on the other side. The bone automatically adjusts to even the PDL back out. To do this, osteoclasts break down the bone so the tooth can move, and osteoblasts go to work on the other side to fill in bone in what is now extra space.

Once the teeth stop moving, the osteoblasts and osteoclasts finish up their job and settle, allowing the bone to harden again and “set.” The problem is it takes several months to do this. That means that your teeth can move out of place during this time. Specifically, they move back toward their old locations because the space is there and the bone isn’t set.

What else causes my teeth to shift?

There are other factors involved in your shifting teeth. You may think it’s things you can avoid or ignore, but some of these factors are everyday activities and results of lack of proper oral care.

Here are some reasons why your teeth shift:

  • Talking: You may not think this would cause your teeth to move, but your tongue and facial muscles put pressure on your teeth as you talk. Over time, this can cause them to shift.
  • Chewing: Biting and chewing put pressure on your teeth, causing them to shift over time.
  • Grinding: Grinding your teeth in your sleep, which is more common than you may think, will cause your teeth to move.
  • Missing teeth: If you lose a tooth due to an accident or gum disease, your teeth will shift to fill in the gap.
  • Gum disease: If you don’t brush and floss properly, you could develop gum disease. This can cause your gums to loosen around your teeth and allow them to shift.
  • Aging: As you get older, your bone breaks, and your facial structure changes. This can cause your teeth to shift as your jaw reshapes itself.

When will my teeth stop shifting?

It’s taken years to move your teeth into their proper positions, so you can expect it to take years to move back. Don’t expect a quick stop here! Without something to hold them in place, such as a retainer, your teeth will continue to shift for a couple of years, at least.

Eventually, though, the movement will slow as the jaw hardens and sets. Until then, significant shifting can occur, though it will be hard to see day-to-day.

How can I tell if my teeth have shifted?

Your teeth will shift, but it will be a very slow process over several years. Because of this, you may not notice right away that your teeth are shifting. However, there are ways to tell without seeing it physically.

The biggest clue is that your retainers start to feel tight or don’t fit properly. Your retainers are custom-designed to fit your teeth and mouth exactly. If they feel tight, it’s because your teeth have shifted. This happens because the retainers aren’t worn for the prescribed amount of time. Right after your braces are removed, you need to wear your retainers all the time, except when you’re eating, drinking dark liquids, brushing, or flossing. You’ll want to come in for an adjustment to your retainers if your teeth have shifted.

As time progresses, you will likely notice that your smile has changed. Your teeth may have turned slightly, or you may notice a gap forming. That change in your smile is an indication that your teeth have shifted.

There’s another important way to tell whether your teeth have shifted — they become sensitive. If your teeth or gums begin to hurt, or your gums begin to bleed, it’s because the teeth have shifted. This leaves gaps along the gumline where food particles can enter and irritate the gums. This can lead to gum disease and tooth sensitivity.

Preventing shifting after braces

We know retainers help prevent tooth shifting, but there are other tools you can use to keep your teeth in place. Let’s explore all the ways you can keep that perfect smile.


Once your braces or Invisalign clear aligners are removed, you will be given a set of custom-designed retainers to keep your teeth from shifting. You will need to wear these at least 22 hours a day to prevent your teeth from shifting. Wearing them less than that amount of time gives your teeth the opportunity to move, and that’s the last thing you want!

It’s recommended that you wear your retainers full-time for the first several months, the average being 6-9 months. After that, you’ll want to wear them overnight every night to maintain your smile. How long should you wear your retainers at night? Well, if you want to keep your perfect smile for a lifetime, it’s best to wear your retainer every night from now on.


You’ll need to wear a mouthguard both during and after treatment if you’re playing sports. Some people also use mouthguards at night to keep from grinding their teeth, which can cause the teeth to shift.

Ideally, you’ll want to use a custom-designed mouthguard that fits your teeth perfectly. This will keep your teeth from shifting while also protecting them from grinding or injury during sports.

Good oral hygiene

There isn’t much point in gaining the perfect smile if you lose teeth later to gum disease. That’s why good oral hygiene is vital both during and after treatment. You should floss first, then brush your teeth for at least two minutes at a time at least twice a day (preferably after every meal). Visit both your dentist and your orthodontist regularly for checkups to maintain your oral health and your perfect smile.

Combined, these three tools will keep your teeth exactly where you want them to be. As with your treatment, you need to be involved in maintaining your smile afterward. Wearing your retainers as prescribed by your orthodontist, wearing a mouthguard when required, and maintaining good oral hygiene will ensure you keep that gorgeous smile for a lifetime!

How do I fix my shifted teeth?

You’ve discovered your teeth have shifted. What do you do? The first step is to call Hodges Orthodontics or schedule a virtual consult! We’ll bring you in for a thorough examination to see how far your teeth have shifted and what can be done.

There are three main options, depending on how far the teeth have shifted. If there has only been a slight shift, we can adjust your retainer to help keep the teeth in place and shift them back. You will be required to wear the retainer all the time for several months to straighten your teeth back out and keep them there.

If the teeth have noticeably shifted, you may need additional treatment with Invisalign. The clear aligners can move your teeth back into place in a matter of weeks or a few months. We’ll then provide a clear retainer. Again, you’ll need to wear the retainer all the time for several months to keep your teeth in place.

With a major shift, we might look at further treatment with braces. This could add several months to your treatment time.

This is why it’s so important to wear your retainers after your initial treatment. Wearing your retainers as prescribed can prevent the need for additional treatment down the road.

Getting help for shifted teeth

If you discover your teeth have shifted, call Hodges Orthodontics. If you’re in the Tupelo, MS, or Pontotoc, MS, areas, we can examine your teeth and determine why they may have shifted and what options you have to keep them from shifting further and repair the damage that has been done.

If necessary, we can outline a new treatment plan that will return your teeth to their straight and proper positions. Whether that’s with braces, clear aligners, or clear retainers, we can find the solution that works best for you.

You have tools to prevent your teeth from shifting after braces or shifting after Invisalign. We can help you learn the best ways to keep your perfect smile for years to come!