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Your braces are off and now your teeth feel weird. You might be getting used to the slimy sensation during those first few days, but now there’s another thing on your mind: why do some of your teeth feel loose after braces?
If you worry that braces might have weakened your teeth, you’re somewhat correct, but it’s only temporary. In this article, I’ll show you what happens to your teeth, bone and gums during your orthodontic treatment, and when to worry about tooth mobility.
Is it normal to have loose teeth after Braces?
During your many months (or years) in braces or clear aligners, your entire mouth had to go through radical changes. Most of your teeth shifted their location through a process of bone and gum remodelling, meaning that:
- the bone melted on one side and new bone grew on the opposite side
- similarly, the gum fibers were stretched on one side and compressed on the other side.
These changes surrounding the teeth’ roots take time, which is why orthodontic treatment can be so slow, but once your teeth are in place, it can also take some time for everything to settle.
It’s normal for your teeth to feel loose after having your braces off, and some teeth will be more loose than others. Here are the most important reasons why:
Now that we’ve addressed the possible explanations for your loose teeth, I want to tackle an issue that makes loose teeth even worse. It’s something that many patients do that tends to weaken teeth instead of helping them recover after orthodontic treatment, and that is: not wearing their retainers for the recommended time and frequency.
Why do teeth feel loose after wearing retainers?
Believe it or not, having perfectly aligned teeth isn’t exactly natural. You have the pressure of the cheeks, the tongue and the bite itself all competing to move teeth out of the alignment we’ve created.
Once the braces come off, your unsupported teeth are unstable and will want to move. In fact, without a retainer, your teeth can shift visibly in as little as a week! This is because of the bone density and gum stretching issue that I explained in the previous section.
To counteract this effect, we provide retainers as soon as possible, and then it’s up to the patient to wear them as instructed.
During the first couple of months, it’s best to wear your retainer as one would wear a clear aligner: all day and all night, with the exception of eating and brushing. This will ensure your teeth “cement” in their new positions and continue to stabilize even after the braces have come off.
If you were to only wear your retainer at night, the on and off motion would allow for your teeth to move during the day and then go back into the retainer setup during the night. This is the most frequent cause of loose, wiggly teeth. You lose during the day what you correct at night.
Another reason for loose teeth is dealing with tight retainers. If you fail to wear your retainers for a few days or weeks, they may not fit properly because some teeth have moved slightly.
If you can still put that retainer on all the way, it will act as an aligner and put pressure on your teeth to go back to their place. This, however, will only work if you wear the retainer full time again until it doesn’t feel tight any more.
So remember – follow the instructions of your orthodontist right after having your braces removed, and if you’re ever dealing with a slightly tight retainer, wear it full time until it feels normal to avoid loose teeth.
If your retainer is exceedingly tight, don’t attempt to wear it, as it can do more damage than good. You can contact your doctor for a new retainer, or a series of aligners to address that relapse.
Is it normal for teeth to wiggle slightly?
Wiggly teeth are a common experience for many people throughout their lifetime, but did you know that some tooth mobility is natural and even necessary? If teeth weren’t capable of some movement, they’d be fused to the bone, making our job as orthodontists impossible.
Tooth mobility refers to how much a tooth can move in its socket. A little bit of movement is normal, but too much movement can mean there’s a problem with the tooth or the tissue around it.
Dentists use a scale of 0 to 3 to rate tooth mobility:
- Degree 0: The tooth is solid and doesn’t move at all.
- Degree 1: The tooth wiggles ever so slightly when a dentist pushes on it.
- Degree 2: The tooth moves more than 1 millimeter in any direction.
- Degree 3: The tooth moves in many directions and is very loose.
Ideally, we all want to have our teeth rated 0 or 1, but if you’ve just had braces, some teeth might qualify for a rating of 2 and feel more loose. But if a tooth is very loose or has a rating of 3, it could mean there’s a problem. This could be due to gum disease, an injury, or a problem with the tooth’s bone support. If you’re worried about tooth mobility, it’s best to see a dentist to get it checked out.
Things you can do to ensure your teeth get stronger
Even if a tooth is visibly loose after braces, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it better. Your orthodontist will check if that tooth isn’t under any type of trauma from the force of your bite, and that the surrounding gum is healthy. Going forward, here’s what you can do to make your teeth stronger:
Hopefully I’ve eased your mind about any loose, wiggly teeth you might be dealing with post-braces. Remember, improper use of retainers is the number one factor that makes teeth stay loose and even get worse over time.
Other than that, slight mobility is perfectly normal after orthodontic treatment. Your teeth should improve in a few months, and completely recover in a year or so. Until then, take great care of them and enjoy your new smile.
Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze: