What Happens If You Don’t Wear Your Retainer?

The day that you get your braces removed is always a great day.  You have probably been looking forward to it for weeks. 

You get to look at your brand-new smile without all of the cement, brackets, and wires. 

What Happens If You Don't Wear Your Retainer?

Then your dentist or orthodontist presents you with a retainer that you are instructed to wear on a daily basis to help keep your teeth in their new position. 

This can be a disheartening moment when you’ve just got your smile back, but wearing your retainer is important. 

In this article, we will look at what happens if you don’t wear your retainer properly.

Why It Is Important To Wear Your Retainer?

Despite how disheartening it can be to be presented with a retainer when you have your braces removed, it is incredibly important to your continued orthodontic treatment. 

Just after your braces are removed is the most important time in your treatment.  Our bodies have great muscle memory and your teeth are no exception. 

Once they are free from the braces, they will want to shift back to their original positions. 

Your retainer is designed to hold your teeth in their new position to encourage them to stay there long term.  

The retainer that you are given will be molded to your new teeth and you may feel a little uncomfortable at first. 

This is mostly just your teeth and gums getting used to the feeling and presence of the retainer in your mouth. 

If the retainer remains uncomfortable for more than a couple of weeks, you should consult your dentist as the fit may not be correct.  

After the retention period is over, you won’t have to wear a retainer anymore, although some people continue to wear their retainer at night for peace of mind.  

What Happens When You Don’t Wear Your Retainer?

There will be times when you forget to put your retainer back in after eating or brushing your teeth and end up going a few hours without it. 

This won’t have any negative effects on the alignment of your teeth unless it begins to be a common occurrence. 

However, if you stop wearing your retainer for extended periods of time, you may begin to notice changes in your teeth and mouth. 

After One Week

During the first week without a retainer during the retention period of your treatment, your teeth will begin to move back to their pre-braces positioning. 

The earlier in the retention period that you stop wearing your retainer, the quicker your teeth will revert back to their original alignment. 

This is why wearing your retainer for at least 22 hours a day is so important at this stage.  

After One Month

If you stop using your retainer for one month, you will notice that your teeth have significantly shifted back into their original positioning. 

At this point, it may be uncomfortable to wear your retainer as it will no longer be aligned with your teeth. 

If you have gotten to this point, and now want to wear your retainer again, you will need to schedule an appointment with your orthodontist to get a new retainer molded to the position of your teeth. 

Your orthodontist is likely to tell you that you need to wear your retainer for up to 24 hours a day, only removing it to eat or clean your teeth.  

After One Year

If you have been neglecting your retainer use for a whole year, your teeth are likely to have returned to the same positioning that they held prior to your braces treatment.  They may be crooked, overcrowded, and painful. 

At this point, a retainer is no longer an option.  Instead, you will have to begin your orthodontic treatment all over again.

This means that you will have to have your braces refitted and you will have to go through the process of moving your teeth back to the desired position. 

Not only will this be painful again, but it will also be expensive, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover it.  

What To Do If You Have Stopped Wearing Your Retainer?

What To Do If You Have Stopped Wearing Your Retainer

If you have gone an extended period of time without wearing your retainer, it can be tempting to try and squeeze it back over your teeth. 

However, depending on how long it has been since you wore your retainer, this can range from uncomfortable to extremely painful. 

Because your retainer has been molded around your teeth as they were when your braces were removed, they will not fit over your teeth properly once they have moved.  

Instead of trying to force your retainer over your shifted teeth, there are other steps that can help you to remember to use your retainer on a daily basis. 

Simple methods such as setting an alarm on your phone can help you to remove and replace your retainer at set times throughout the day.  

You can also place notes around your house, such as on your front door to remind you to check whether you have your retainer in before you leave for the day or on your bathroom mirror to remind you to replace your retainer after cleaning your teeth.  

You can also assign a friend to keep you accountable, this works really well if you also have friends who are undergoing orthodontic treatment, as you can help to keep each other accountable. 

You can also help each other remember the effort that you have put in to get your new smile and how important it is to maintain it during the last leg. 

Final Thoughts

Wearing your retainer after your braces have been removed is the most important part of your treatment and it relies entirely on you and your behaviour to maintain the progress you have made. 

If you think you will struggle with your retainer, speak to your orthodontist to come up with a support plan.

Andrew Kemp
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