To evaluate whether the quality of orthodontic finishing influences long-term stability of anterior tooth alignment.

Materials and Methods

This retrospective study evaluated 38 patients. Data were obtained at the beginning of treatment (T0), at the end (T1), and at least 5 years after T1 (T2). At this point, the individuals were no longer wearing retainers. Anterior tooth alignment was measured using Little's index (LI). Effect on alignment stability was tested with multiple linear regression using LI–T0, LI–T1, intercanine width difference T1–T0, overbite (T1), overjet (T1), age, gender, time without retention, and presence of third molars as predictor variables. Well-aligned (LI < 1.5 mm) and misaligned (LI > 1.5 mm) cases were compared at T2.


At T2, the alignment stability in the upper arch was inversely associated with the alignment quality (R2 = 0.378, P < .001) and directly associated with overbite (R2 = 0.113, P = .008) at T1. Posttreatment changes caused cases finished with poor alignment to become similar to those finished with excellent alignment (P = .917). In the mandible, posttreatment changes were directly associated only with overjet (R2 = 0.152, P = .015) and well-finished cases displayed better alignment than poorly finished cases (P = .011). Other variables showed no significant association.


In arches without retention, better quality of orthodontic finishing does not guarantee the stability of anterior alignment. In the maxilla, long-term changes were more significant the greater the overbite and the better the quality of alignment at end of treatment. In the mandible, changes were not dependent on the quality of finishing but were associated with greater overbite at T2.

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Author notes


Department of Orthodontics, Federal University of Pará (UFPA), Belém, Pará, Brazil.


Professor (Retired), Department of Orthodontics, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.


Associate Professor, Faculty of Dentistry, Federal University of Pará (UFPA), Belém, Pará, Brazil.