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What is the deal with Orthodontic Relapse?

Most teens and their parents believe that if they comply with their orthodontic treatment, they will have straight teeth for life. But in reality, that just is not the case. Dr. Jacqueline Fulop Goodling’s three orthodontic offices throughout New York are among the busiest in the state and a recent in-office poll highlighted just how wrong most of us are: according to the poll, more than three quarters of Dr.Jacquie s patients have had more than one round of orthodontic treatment.

This signifies a major trend one that most people can verify simply by asking around. Chances are they know someone who has had orthodontic treatment more than once, or who had it and whose teeth have become crooked again.

So, what is the deal?

According to Dr. Jacquie there are two major issues at play:
1. Patients do not understand the importance of wearing their retainer following treatment. Not for 6 months – for the rest of their lives.
2. Until recently, the process of making retainers and replacing them (if lost, broken, or if the patients teeth shift) was riddled with problems: orthodontists retired before their patients needed new equipment, patient records were not computerized and therefore difficult to locate, and much more.

At the root of both of these issues is the mistaken belief that orthodontic results are permanent. Teeth have memory, and once the braces come off, or the patient ceases to wear aligners, they will gradually return to their original position, Dr. Jacquie explains. The fact is that as a whole the field has not emphasized enough the true importance of wearing retainers and it is always been a part of orthodontics handled individually by each office. We are seeing more and more cases of repeat treatment and the most valuable knowledge we can impart to patients is that they should discuss after care with their orthodontist in as much depth as they did their actual treatment.

Additionally, Dr. Jacquie encourages her patients to view wearing their retainer as a healthy lifestyle decision. The decision to have orthodontic treatment whether made by an adult for themselves or for their child is an important health decision, Dr. Jacquie says, going on to explain that like many other healthy life choices, a well aligned smile and mouth requires a commitment. I tell my patients to compare it to a healthy diet. The benefit will remain with them for as long as they stick to that diet, but if they stray for too long, they begin to lose some of it. It is the same with orthodontic treatment.Thankfully, with the right guidance and by asking the right questions the first treatment can last a lifetime.