dental retainers of assorted colors

What Happens if You Don’t Wear Your Retainer?

After completing orthodontic treatment, a retainer will be custom-made for the patient to keep their teeth in their newly aligned and proper position. In some cases, a retainer can also be used to make small adjustments after orthodontic treatment is complete. Children and teens should wear their retainer exactly as prescribed by their orthodontist. Here’s a look at what can happen if you don’t wear your retainer. 

What is a Retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance worn after completing treatment with braces or Invisalign. Each retainer is made to fit the specific patient. Retainers prevent orthodontic relapse, which is when the teeth start to move towards the position they were in before orthodontic treatment.  Short-term relapses occur within 12 months of completing treatment. Long-term relapses occur more than a year after completing treatment. Retainers may be either removable or fixed, depending upon your unique needs. 

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers, as their name implies, can be removed by the patient. Removable retainers may use a wire, and an acrylic base or they may be made of clear, thin plastic that fits over the teeth. If your child has completed Invisalign treatment, they are likely to be given clear plastic retainers. If they have completed treatment with traditional metal or clear braces they are more likely to have a retainer made from acrylic and wire. 

Fixed (Permanent Retainer)

A fixed or permanent retainer is bonded to the back of the front teeth. These cannot be removed at home by the patient. 

What Does a Retainer Do?

Even after completing orthodontic treatment, teeth tend to shift back into their old position. As we age, our teeth can also begin to move due to growth-related factors. As such, a retainer is worn to retain the teeth in their properly aligned position. 

Failing to wear your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist can essentially undo all of the work that went into straightening your teeth. It is particularly important to wear your retainer as instructed immediately following completion of orthodontic treatment, as the teeth have only been in the new position for a short period. They will drift back into old positions unless held in place by your retainer.  

If you don’t wear your retainer as instructed, your teeth may shift so much that your retainer will no longer fit. If this is the case, you may need additional orthodontic treatment, as retainers are designed to keep your teeth in place, not to reposition them after they have moved. 

How Long Will My Child Need to Wear a Retainer?

Most children should plan to wear their retainer most of the time immediately following treatment. After some time, you may be able to begin wearing it at night only. Each patient is a little different, so you’ll need to speak with your orthodontist, and adhere to their advice.  For many patients, it is wise to continue wearing your retainer at least a few nights a week, indefinitely to maintain your straight smile.  

Learn More About Orthodontic Treatment for Kids in Levittown

My Town’s Little Dentist provides complete pediatric dentistry and orthodontic treatment, in Levittown, NY. From early orthodontic intervention, and braces, to retainers, My Town’s Little Dentist is accepting new patients. Contact us today at 516-226-7337 or request an appointment online.