How to Avoid Getting Screwed by Retainer Relapse

Retainer relapse, also known as orthodontic relapse, is a common occurrence after orthodontic treatment. It happens when teeth shift out of their corrected position and return to their original alignment over time. This can happen due to a variety of factors, including natural growth and changes in the teeth and jawbone, genetics, failure to wear a retainer as directed after treatment, and other environmental factors such as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. Retainer relapse can cause the bite to become misaligned, crowding or spacing between teeth, or other orthodontic issues, and may require additional treatment to correct.

How Common Is Orthodontic Relapse?

Orthodontic relapse is relatively common and can occur in a significant percentage of patients who have undergone orthodontic treatment. The exact rate of relapse depends on various factors, such as the type of orthodontic treatment received, the severity of the original dental misalignment, and the patient’s compliance with post-treatment instructions.


Studies have found that relapse rates range from 10% to 50% depending on the specific type of orthodontic treatment. The highest relapse rates are typically seen in patients who received treatment with traditional braces. However, early detection and appropriate treatment can manage many relapse cases.


To ensure successful orthodontic treatment outcomes and prevent liability for relapses, you need to lay a solid foundation. Begin by learning how to finish the case and document it with a “congratulations form” or “statement of satisfaction.” Taking a full set of final orthodontic records is crucial before delivering retainers.


Implement a bulletproof retainer compliance program with a 30-day warranty period and required retainer appointments at one, three, and six months after the d-bond. As the patient, you’ll need to wear the retainers full-time for at least six months and then gradually phase down usage. The warranty program details and the phase-down process is customized to the patient’s needs.