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Orthodontics/tooth movement with retainer wear


My daughter got her braces off almost two years ago. She religiously wears her retainers the way she was told. She was given the clear plastic kind and within a year it cracked. I asked the ortho about having her get the metal type. The ortho again wanted to do the clear plastic type , and supposedly made it a little heavier material. It has cracked again after four months and on top of it her one front tooth is overlapping slightly on the other at the bottom and she feels like it definitely moved.If you run your finger across them they are not even across,the one sticks out more. How can your teeth move if you wear your retainer?? She is 18, and did go through puberty late. Why doesn't the ortho want to use the metal retainer?? and should I have a new one made with the fact that her front tooth is off a little?? Could her wisdom teeth be coming in even though she doesnt feel anything and pushing on her teeth?

Thank you so much,



Hi Marianne,

You present a very interesting question. Pardon the delay, as I was traveling out of state.

What I write here are only my opinions based on very limited information. My comments should not be viewed as any form of diagnosis, definitive or otherwise,  or any form of  treatment recommendation.  Indeed, in the ultimate analysis all final decisions, particularly clinical ones, should  only be made by qualified doctors who have had a chance to see you in person and who have had an opportunity to take and analyze proper diagnostic records.

Okay… having said  that…  your  questions focused on changes in root length and shape in conjunction with orthodontic treatment..  You  wrote:

 Why doesn't the ortho want to use the metal retainer?? and should I have a new one made with the fact that her front tooth is off a little?? Could her wisdom teeth be coming in even though she doesn't feel anything and pushing on her teeth?  

There are many types of retainers. The clear ones which you were given have a LOT of advantages, but as you have discovered certain drawbacks as well. The clear appliances which often resemble clear aligners such as those offered by Invisalign or Clear Correct, are often a  very natural transition for those patients who received clear aligner rather than traditional braces/bracket type orthodontic  therapy. Because such clear retainers are more aesthetic, the compliance factor, especially among teens, is more favorable. Such retainers completely cover the teeth and therefore also offer considerable protection from night grinding of the teeth known as bruxism. The appliances in heavy bruxers however can be quickly " ground up and destroyed" in which case this approach is not the best. They can also be easily lost, or damaged if not kept in a protective case when outside the mouth. In 2013 the clear style of retainer is quite popular and wide spread.

The traditional Hawley style removable "wire" retainers as you describe them, still have their place. They can be sometimes adjusted to help correct minor relapse and  tooth movement which may have arisen for any number of reasons. The are perhaps less fragile, but also far less aesthetic as well. If your daughter does not mind wearing the more traditional "Hawley" or metal style retainers, they might be an excellent choice at this point. Your daughter's minor tooth relapse MAY be able to be addressed with minor adjustments to a Hawley retainer.

As to your question regarding the their molars or wisdom teeth, I can not really comment without the benefit of a current radiograph. Certain semi impacted lower wisdom teeth when inclined forwards can present a concern which is best diagnosed by your  current orthodontist.

Marianne,  please go the the section on retainers at the website "

I hope that this helps.


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Paul Supan, DDS, MA, MPH


First may I say please set your questions to Public so other readers can benefit from the response. Also, if you look at my comprehensive answers, they are not short 1 or 2 paragraph quickie replies that anyone can type out in < 5 minutes. Instead I often will ask other colleagues in other specialties for their advice in order to provide you the questioner with a more interdisciplinary perspective. This all takes time. I ask for readers to therefore allow 5-7 days. You will be rewarded with a very detailed response.

Because of the nature of Orthodontic questions, any pictures of the teeth and X-ray images would be very helpful. If you write to me and explain that you have crooked overlapping front teeth can be interpreted in many many ways, and my goal is to provide a specific response that meets your needs.

I hold double specialty credentials. I am Board Certified in Orthodontics and Board Eligible in Dental Public Health. I welcome questions regarding Braces, Invisible Braces, & Invisalign, as well as issues involving combination Cosmetic Dentistry and Orthodontic treatment. Orthodontics alone sometimes is not enough to achieve that perfect smile. Gingival (gum) re-contouring, tooth reshaping, bonding and other services are sometimes needed. I also have substantial experience in the areas of Infection Control and Sterilization in the Dental Environment. My personal websites and are non-commercial for information purposes only and may provide you with some background to more precisely frame your question for

Please allow a week for a reply. I am in full time Private Practice, lecture on occasion, and am involved in many volunteer activities. I am therefore not always able to respond to questions straight away. Your understanding is appreciated.


Board Certified Orthodontist (ABO Diplomate) with over 25 years of Private Practice experience. Second Specialty Certificate in Dental Public Health with research experience at NIH, and Epidemiology Training & Research at Harvard, NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Postgraduate Masters degree from the Harvard School of Public Health, as well as a Master of Arts Degree in Education.

American Dental Association, American Association of Orthodontists, Academy of General Dentistry, College of Diplomates of the ABO, OSAP - Office Sterilization & Asepsis Procedures Organization, Others

Available upon Request.

BS College of William & Mary, DDS Medical College of Virginia, Masters of Public Health (MPH) Degree Harvard School of Public Health. Dental Public Health Specialty Certificate from NIH. Orthodontic Specialty Certificate from University of Rochester Eastman Dental Center. USPHS clinical research experience at NIH, and Epidemiology Training & Research at Harvard, NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control. Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD), and Fully Board Certified Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics. Board Eligible in Dental Public Health. Visiting Adjunct Associate Professor at the Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, Nashville, Tennessee.

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Available upon Request Please see my personal websites and for further personal background.

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