It’s happened before: patients still getting used to their retainers forget to wear them for several days, or even a week! Sometimes people travel and leave their retainers at home, or forget where they placed them and cannot find them temporarily. What’s going to happen?
At Trillium Dental, we have the answers!
In the best-case scenario, we want the answer to be, “Nothing will happen!”. The optimal possible result for missing time in retainers is that nothing changes and there’s no visible effect. Ideally, once you find the missing retainers, putting them on would be smooth and easy, with you placing them over your teeth and them snapping back into position perfectly.
If that happens, you can breathe a sigh of relief! It means that over the time period without retainers, the teeth have remained in position, and no shifting, movement, or relapse has occurred. Be grateful and be more cautious to protect all of the work and effort put into your smile by guarding those retainers and ensuring they are with you during everyday life and travel.
Unfortunately, there are times that the opposite result is true: the retainers no longer fit after time without them. This means that one or more of the teeth have tilted, rotated, or shifted from the intended position, and now the retainer is unable to fit and hold the teeth where the dentist/orthodontist intended. Don’t try to force them on, which can jar your teeth and be painful.
While our dentists are not orthodontists, we are aware from thorough discussion and experience about what kind of retainer our patients should use, and when and how to use it. Once the braces or aligners are done, and the retainers are delivered, we always warn our patients that if for any reason they’re unable to use the retainers (if they are misplaced or broken), to call us immediately. We then make a temporary set of retainers to use to prevent relapse until the original set is found or new ones are made. Sometimes having two is more than just a comfort, but a saving grace if one is missing for a long time or lost indefinitely.
Luckily, we can often help even when significant time has been missed in retainer wearing and the fit is no longer comfortable. Sometimes we are able to make adjustments and get them to fit reasonably well again. If clear aligners were used to move the teeth, one may be able to go back a few aligner trays and re-do the treatment to completion. Going backwards is frustrating, but it’s an efficient way to retrace the steps in your journey to a beautiful smile.
It’s important to understand that retainers are passive, and not able to regain any orthodontic positioning that was lost due to relapse. Relapse is a serious problem that orthodontists see often. The greater the amount of movement of the teeth with orthodontics, the greater the chance of relapse. However, a good final bite position tends to prevent relapse, because the teeth opposite each other are designed to hold proper position in ideal natural bites. That’s the outcome we strive to achieve with our orthodontic treatment plans.
When you don’t wear your retainers as instructed, teeth shifting begins to happen. While the speed of shift will differ from person to person, it’s inevitable if you neglect your retainer wear for too long. We understand that “shift happens” and we want to stress the importance of daily wear, and of contacting us as soon as you realize that your retainers are missing in action.
The Bottom line: make sure to understand the importance of retainer use after orthodontics, and the possible consequences of non-compliance. Don’t risk the time and effort that you and your orthodontist have spent straightening your teeth! What took months or even years to perfect could be undone far quicker. Protect your investment in your smile and follow the instructions you were given for consistent retainer use. Save yourself the stress by wearing your retainer as prescribed, and keeping it safe.
Orthodontics is great and can deliver a fantastic looking smile if the individual teeth are in good shape and have a nice shade. But if the smiling teeth are both misaligned, damaged or discolored, you may want to consider SmileBOND. With SmileBOND, we are able to deliver brilliant, gleaming smiles quickly and efficiently. The work is done in just one treatment visit of only two to three hours. The cost is far less than orthodontics, or porcelain crowns and veneers, and best of all: SmileBOND is painless! Very rarely does the dentist need to use anesthetic or drill the teeth down to use SmileBOND. Consider your options and contact our Lansing dentists or call us at 517.485.3444 to learn more.
Good luck and stay smiling!
This blog was adapted from Dr. Bill Vuillemot’s Q&A on Quora.