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Braces Again? What is Orthodontic Relapse?


You had braces in your teenage years and now your teeth have moved, no longer straight, what happened? Let’s look at what your mouth does every day, eat, talk, chew, breathe, and swallow. Where is your tongue now? In the bottom of your mouth, between your teeth, or in the top of your mouth up against the palate? The position of the tongue at rest is just as important as how it functions and moves in your mouth when you swallow, chew, and speak. The tongue is an organ, made of multiple muscle groups. During chewing and swallowing pressure is put against your teeth with your tongue and cheeks. The tongue is your body’s natural retainer, keeping teeth in the correct position. During Orthodontic treatment teeth are moved and shifted in the bone in order to straighten. But what is not treated is the movement and function of the tongue, cheek, and lip muscles. After orthodontics are completed the forces and movement from these muscles remain the same, tongue thrusting will continue and over time shift teeth back to how they were before. Just like thumb sucking, even though the actual thumb is no longer being sucked the pattern of the muscles and memory of the function during development will continue. Your body needs to relearn the proper swallowing and tongue position.

Myofunctional therapy is an integral part of orthodontic treatment when a tongue thrust is present. Otherwise the muscle memory will remain the same and money spent on orthodontics will need to be spent again later in life in adulthood for treatment of orthodontic relapse. Teeth can shift in short per iod of time, as quickly as 15 months after treatment, even with wearing the retainer nightly.

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