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After putting in all the hard work of braces, it's a good idea to wear your retainer for its prescribed period of time. After wearing the retainer for a prescribed period of time, your orthodontist may still want you to wear it a few nights a week indefinitely. However, if you get out of the habit of wearing your retainer, you may find that it no longer fits due to shifting teeth. Read on to learn more how to navigate this situation.
Understand Why Your Teeth Are Shifting
Your teeth are held into sockets by periodontal ligaments. Although these ligaments are stretched and adjust to your new bite, they have a muscle memory. The elastic fibers tend to pull teeth into old positions even after treatment, which is why wearing a retainer is so important. Besides the tendency of periodontal ligaments to shift teeth, your teeth may shift from bruxism, misplaced tongue pressure, or even bone growth.
Consider How Long You've Gone without Wearing the Retainer
If you've only missed a few days of not wearing your retainer, you should be just fine re-wearing the appliance although it may be a little uncomfortable at first. However, if you haven't been wearing your retainer for weeks or even months, your teeth may have shifted more than you realized, and the retainer may be painful to wear. It's not a good idea to force the retainer on in this case since an ill-fitting retainer can scrape enamel and hurt surrounding gum tissue. In this scenario, it's best to make an appointment with your orthodontist.
Discuss Your Options with Your Orthodontist
Keep in mind that retainers aren't active appliances like braces, meaning that they do not shift teeth to new positions. They simply retain teeth in their current state. If your bite has shifted, your dentist will need to take new impressions of your teeth to fabricate a new retainer.
Unfortunately, if your teeth have shifted enough, then you may need braces or clear aligners to help you get your teeth back to an ideal position. If you don't want to go through treatment again, your orthodontist can just refit you with a new retainer to maintain your current bite.
Consider a Permanent Retainer After a Repeat Treatment
If you do want to correct the shifts of your teeth, you may want to go back to braces and then conclude the treatment with a permanent retainer. With removable retainers, it's tempting not to wear the appliance, you you may simply forget to wear it each night. By opting for a fixed (permanent) retainer, you can resolve another incidence of shifting teeth.
Unlike braces, no one can see fixed retainers — like lingual wires — because they are bonded to the backs of your teeth. Because the device is secured with dental cement, you won't have to worry about taking it in or out each day and/or losing it. Your orthodontist could start you out on a fixed retainer and then once teeth have settled, he or she could remove the bonding material and you could switch back to a removable retainer.
Reach out to your orthodontist for more information about how to handle shifting teeth when wearing a retainer.