How Long is the Retention Phase?
When we remove your braces, we will begin the retention phase of your treatment. The active retention phase lasts for a minimum of 6 months, but we will continue to monitor and follow you for many years without additional cost. Your final orthodontic result depends on your retainers, so it is important to follow through with the hard work you’ve put in.
Factors Causing Movement in the Retention Phase
The 6-month active retention phase allows for a majority of growth and settling to occur so that the teeth and jaws are as stable as possible. However, living tissue is always subject to change from posture, habits, muscle pressure, etc. The eruption of teeth, dental restorations, and the aging process all contribute to unwanted tooth movement. Forces exerted by the lips and tongue can also cause subtle changes in tooth positions. Habits such as biting your nails or chewing on pencils put enough pressure on the teeth to move them as well.
Recent studies have indicated that growth occurs in small amounts throughout life. Thus, teeth and jaws can shift at any time in varying degrees, which usually depend on the original malocclusion, the facial muscle structure, and the amount of residual growth.
Some believe that unerupted wisdom teeth are a factor in movement of teeth, but this has not been proven conclusively and tooth shifting has been seen to occur in people with no wisdom teeth. Removal of wisdom teeth or 3rd molars may be recommended due to lack of adequate space in the mouth for normal eruption if it appears that they may cause problems.