Q. I am 50 years old, and it seems that my teeth are shifting. I had braces as a teenager. What could cause this, and will I need braces?
A. Teeth that have been placed in an ideal position through orthodontic treatment such as braces can still be prone to relapse in the absence of some kind of retentive appliance. Retainers are an extremely important part of orthodontic therapy because they hold and stabilize the position of the teeth after the braces have been removed and prevent the teeth from moving back to their starting position. Even without treatment teeth can still shift as we age. This phenomenon is known as mesial migration and can cause some minor crowding, especially in the lower front teeth. In most cases, wearing a retainer diligently at night is sufficient to hold the teeth in their ideal position after orthodontic therapy. If you are experiencing some shifting of your teeth, your orthodontist may need to adjust your retainer or make you a new one if you have not been wearing one for some time. In some instances, the shifting is beyond what a retainer can correct, and limited orthodontic treatment may be necessary to completely correct any relapse.