When your braces come off or you’re done with your Invisalign aligners, you’re likely to feel jubilant—you’re done with orthodontic treatment! Well, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but you’re not exactly done with your treatment. Instead, you’re about to embark on the next step of your orthodontic journey: getting a retainer. Wear it as directed and you’ll have a beautiful smile for a lifetime. But what happens if you don’t wear your retainer?
More About Retainers
As you might suspect from the name, retainers are used to help retain the proper positions for your teeth after braces or aligner therapy. They should be thought of as an integral part of your orthodontic treatment—your braces or aligners move your teeth into the proper positions, but it’s your retainers that keep them there in the long-term.
There are a few different types of retainers available. A Hawley retainer has an acrylic base that is attached to a wire that wraps around your teeth to hold them in place. A fixed retainer is a thin wire that is bonded to the backs of the lower front teeth. Essix retainers, also known as clear retainers, are increasingly popular as they look and feel much like Invisalign aligners, with the primary difference being that the material is thicker and sturdier for increased durability.
As you near the end of your treatment with braces or Invisalign, we’ll begin to discuss retainer options with you. The right choice depends on your orthodontic needs, personal preferences, and lifestyle.
What Happens When You Don’t Wear Your Retainer
Each of your teeth is held in place by a ligament. Think of these ligaments as thick rubber bands; your braces will move your teeth where they need to be for proper alignment and bite, but the ligaments become stretched like a rubberband. Once your braces are removed, those ligaments will want to snap back into place, moving your teeth with them. When this occurs, it’s called orthodontic relapse.
Although orthodontic relapse happens much more slowly than snapping a rubber band, even neglecting to wear your retainer for a few days can result in the shifting of your teeth. You don’t have to take our word for it, either—you’ll feel it when you put your retainer back on and it feels tight. Go more than a day or two without wearing your retainer and you’ll experience pain when you put it back in. Wait longer than that and it might not even fit anymore.
The last thing you want after investing so much time and money into your smile is to have your teeth shift back. This is why we emphasize the importance of wearing your retainer as directed.
What to Do If Your Retainer No Longer Fits
If you’ve forgotten to wear your retainer and it doesn’t fit anymore, we want you to schedule an appointment with Dr. Broccoli as soon as you can. It’s often possible to design a new retainer that can make slight movements to your teeth to get them back into their proper positions.
If you’re an adult who has experienced orthodontic relapse after decades of not wearing your retainer, you’re not alone. Invisalign, or clear aligner treatment, is an ideal solution in such cases—and once your treatment is complete, your older, wiser self will be sure to wear your retainers as directed!