Can Retainers Realign Your Teeth?

Nobody's perfect, and that can be especially true when it comes to your orthodontics. You might have received a retainer from your orthodontist and worn it faithfully for a month or two before leaving it in the bathroom cabinet and forgetting to put it in for a while. That's when you might notice some shifting in your mouth. You might be concerned about undoing all of the work your braces have done. Can retainers realign teeth? It depends on each case, but understanding how retainers work may give you a clearer answer.

Why Retainers?

Just when you thought your journey to straight teeth was over, your orthodontist removes your braces only to hand you a new oral appliance. Retainers are customized mouthpieces that stabilize the position of your teeth. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, braces cause major shifting and can affect the bone structure in your mouth.

Retainers help stabilize your teeth while new bone tissue builds around them, solidifying their new positions, allowing you to keep your teeth straight and protect your orthodontic investment. Your orthodontist will prescribe how long you need to wear a retainer, and you may wear it during the day, just at night, or both. 

Retainer Wear and Care

If your orthodontist has given you a retainer, it's up to you to wear and care for it properly. Taking care of your retainer and following instructions ensures that it can do its job in helping your teeth maintain their positions. You'll need to wear it according to your orthodontist's instructions as well as keep it clean and remove it when you eat. 

Of course, you might remove your retainer and forget to put it back in for a while. You might also lose or break it. In these cases, you'll need to schedule an appointment with your orthodontist to make a new retainer or discuss further treatment.

Can Retainers Realign Teeth?

It's important to remember that retainers are meant to help teeth hold their position after an active orthodontic phase (such as braces). They don't exert the same force that aligners or braces do to move teeth. Still, if it's only been a few days since you remembered your retainer, you shouldn't worry: simply start wearing it again as soon as possible.

If you've gone weeks or months without wearing your retainer, try it on for size. If it's uncomfortable or feels too small, your teeth have shifted and you'll need to talk to your orthodontist. Your retainer might be able to gently guide teeth back if the bone tissue hasn't already grown and solidified your teeth's new positions. If you've gone without your retainer for so long that new bone tissue growth has occurred, your orthodontist might suggest braces, clear aligners or other methods to help realign your teeth.

Remember that a retainer is just that: a way to retain your hard work in straightening your teeth. Wearing it according to your orthodontist's instructions protects your time and investment. Still, if you forget your retainer and it feels tight or wobbly when you put it back in, check with your orthodontist for your next plan of action. Attempting to straighten your own teeth could cause pain or even further shifting, so it's best to get a professional opinion for any more work on your smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Oral Care Tips Related to ADULT ORTHODONTICS

  • Flossing – creating a flossing routine is important during orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists and hygienists may recommend interdental brushes or floss threaders to make getting in between teeth easier.

  • Brushing routine – using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush are ideal for cleaning teeth with braces. Begin brushing at a 45-degree angle at the gum line using small circular motions. Then place the toothbrush on top of the brackets, angling down to brush on top of each bracket. Finally, reposition the brush to brush the bottom of the bracket as well as the wire, angling the toothbrush up.

  • Fluoride mouthwash – after brushing and flossing, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to help prevent cavities and white spots.

  • Mouthguards – wear a mouthguard if you play sports. Mouthguards can protect your cheeks and lips from serious cuts and can prevent damage to your braces or orthodontic appliance if you fall down or are hit in the face.