Does Your Retainer Fit?

As we get older, our bodies change, resulting in wrinkles in our skin, the thinning of our hair, and the movement of our teeth.  The only way to keep teeth straight long term is with the use of retainers. An orthodontic retainer is an appliance that Dr. Varghese delivers to our patients to keep their teeth as straight as possible after braces are removed.  We even see patients that have been out of orthodontic treatment for years that have lost their retainers and now they need a replacement so their teeth do not continue to shift more than they already have.

We deliver retainers to our patients’ on the same day that patients’ braces are removed ☺ Dr. Varghese makes certain our patients’ retainers fit comfortably and correctly before they leave our office. We expect retainers might feel snug at first, but they will surely loosen up the same way that a new pair of slip-on shoes loosen up with wear. If a retainer doesn’t fit right when first delivered, we will either remake it or change the kind of retainer completely.

When a patient reports that his or her retainer is no longer fitting, there are two things that could have happened. The first occurs when a patient does something to his or her retainer that distorts its shape. This can happen when a clear plastic retainer, known as an Essix retainer, is cleaned in water that is too hot. Washing or soaking retainers in water that is too warm can cause the heat-sensitive plastic to “relax” and lose its shape, allowing teeth to move. Retainers with acrylic and wires, also known as a Hawley retainer, can be deformed by being inserted or removed incorrectly (using the front wire as a handle, for example) or by being stepped on or slept on.

The second and most common cause of retainers not fitting properly, or not at all, is that the retainer is simply not being worn as prescribed by Dr. Varghese. There are different regimens for maintaining straight teeth, so we can’t dictate here what is appropriate for you. After 1 full year of being out of braces, we suggest to our patients’ to go from full-time retainer wear, to night-time retainer wear. After a few years of night-time wear, we recommend going a couple of nights without your retainer, then insert your retainer. Does your retainer feel tight? If so, you may want to wear it nightly. We can say, that if your retainer fit when you left our office, but it no longer fits, chances are you have not worn it enough and your teeth have moved. If the change is recent and minimal (and your retainers still fit but are tight) you can try wearing them full time to see if the teeth will move back where they were before. If the teeth don’t realign within a couple of days however, you’ll need to see Dr. Varghese as soon as possible. If you stopped wearing your retainer more than a few days and your retainer won’t fit at all, you’ll also need to see Dr. Varghese. Waiting too long will only allow more movement and increase the likelihood that you’ll need braces once again to correct the shifting.  Please make an appointment with our office if you have any questions.

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