Orthodontic treatment doesn’t end with braces: continue your care to avoid orthodontic relapse for life.

There is no greater feeling than completing an orthodontic case and witnessing the transformation from a malocclusion to a perfect smile. Patients’ satisfaction is high with their new esthetic, straight smile and dentists are proud they could make a change in their patients’ lives. Yet, the orthodontic journey is not technically over. One of the most important phases of orthodontics that many patients forget is retention. Without proper retention, orthodontic relapse is likely and teeth will return to their original positions leaving patients unhappy and dentists frustrated.

What can you do as a general and pediatric dentist to keep your patients’ new, perfect smile straight? There are simple tips to remember as a provider and to remind your patients of when they complete their orthodontic case.

1. Proper Case Diagnosis and Treatment Planning

One of the greatest things you can do for your patients is to give them the smile they deserve. The American Orthodontic Society (AOS) offers general and pediatric dentists basic and intermediate orthodontic courses taught by Dr. Brad Williams so they can feel confident diagnosing, treatment planning, treating, and retaining cases for their patients.

An online or in-person orthodontic course can teach you all you need to know about Class I and Class II malocclusions so that you can apply straight wire orthodontics to create a beautiful smile. But, the course does more than simply teach you to put braces on. It gives you the didactic background so you have the knowledge of why and how to treat orthodontics. It prepares you to make case presentations to patients in a confident and experienced manner.

Moreover, the AOS prepares you to make the best decisions in diagnosing and treatment planning appropriate cases so there are less struggles, problems, and relapses of teeth. When you are taught well, you can make better decisions and, therefore, prevent orthodontic relapse and poor esthetic results.

2. Retain Your New Smile With Retainers

Everyone’s all excited when braces are removed. Who wouldn’t be? There is a new, pearly white smile to be proud of. But, you need to make it very clear to your patient that retainer use is a necessity for life. They invested time and finances into the orthodontic process, and to maintain their new smile, they need to protect their investment with retainers. Whether you choose permanent retainers, plastic retainers, or metal retainers is dependent upon the provider and patient, but emphasize it is necessary to wear them (at least minimally at night) for a lifetime to prevent orthodontic relapse.

3. Complete Your Case On A Strong Note

When you take an orthodontic course with Williams GP Orthodontic, you will learn that one of the most important factors of your treatment plan is your retention phase. When should you end a case if the patient’s teeth appear straight? Your general dentist orthodontic course teaches that a case is only complete when both tooth crowns AND roots are parallel and straight. Don’t be deceived by the teeth alone. Take a panoramic to address progress and determine the right time to remove braces.

4. Overcompensate When Necessary

One of the main reasons orthodontic relapse or when teeth move back to their initial malocclusion is that while orthodontics can correct teeth and root positions, they cannot change the ligaments that surround the teeth. Ligaments pull teeth into their original, comfortable position so that, without retention, teeth will shift back.

It is a wise idea to over-correct teeth slightly to force them into a long-term position. Most times a slight overcorrection is not even noticeable to the patient and they will appreciate the effort as their teeth will have a greater chance of remaining straight.

Correct the ligaments that connect teeth to the jaw bone. It’s these ligaments that will start to pull teeth once braces are removed and can shift them back into the position in which they started, often requiring further correcting treatment as a result.

5. Address Oral Toxic Habits

If your patients had any detrimental oral habits prior to braces, there is a good chance they still have that habit. Habits like a tongue thrust, thumb sucking, lip biting, or sucking on pieces of clothing or fingers should be addressed during treatment so there is a plan for when the case is finished. If habits are not addressed, it can interfere with the final results and cause orthodontic relapse where teeth move back into their original positions.

Dr. Charles Hawley, founder of the orthodontic retainer, the Hawley, once said, “Any fool can move teeth, but it takes a wise man to make them stay.” It is incredible to change a person’s smile with straight wire orthodontics, but even more fulfilling when you see your patient’s smile retained 10 or even 20 years later. When you remember some simple tips to prevent orthodontic relapse, you will be providing passive dental care for a lifetime. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can change smiles with orthodontics, contact us for more information.