What To Do If Your Retainer Doesn’t Fit Anymore
Written by: Dr. John Castronova, Diamond Braces Orthodontist
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Oleg Drut, Diamond Braces Orthodontist and Chief Clinical Officer
Date: November 6, 2020
Over time, it’s possible that your retainer may stop fitting properly. Usually, this means the retainer has become distorted or misshapen, or that your teeth have shifted, likely due to irregular retainer use.
If this happens, you can schedule a visit with your orthodontist for a retainer appointment. The doctor can either adjust your retainer so that it fits again, or fit you for a new retainer to replace the one that no longer fits.
If it has been a long time since you’ve worn your retainer and your teeth have shifted considerably, your orthodontist may recommend a second round of orthodontic care to re-align your teeth. In order to avoid the expense and time commitment of a second round of orthodontic treatment, protect the results of the original treatment by wearing your retainer properly.
How to Make Your Retainer Fit Again
If you can’t comfortably put your retainer back in your mouth, don’t try to force it: you could hurt your teeth or damage the retainer. If it isn’t fitting comfortably, either the retainer has become misshapen, or your teeth have shifted out of alignment.
If you can’t put your retainer in comfortably, contact your orthodontist and schedule an appointment. During the visit, they will examine your teeth and the retainer to identify the issue.
If you have a Hawley retainer, the doctor may be able to adjust the appliance to fit in your mouth again. If you have clear plastic retainers, they will be able to create a new set of retainers, using the original mold or a new mold.
How to Know if Your Retainer Doesn’t Fit
If your retainer doesn’t fit comfortably, you shouldn’t try to force it. When your orthodontist prepares your retainer, they are careful to custom mold it to your teeth. They’ll have you try it on in the office to be sure if it fits.
If you wear the retainer irregularly, or the retainer gets damaged or misshapen, it won’t fit snugly anymore: either it will feel loose, or so tight that you have to wedge it into your mouth.
If either of these are the case, it’s a good sign that your retainer doesn’t fit, and you should take it to the orthodontist for an examination.
Clear plastic retainers are easily affected by heat, so if you leave the retainer in a hot place for too long, it’s likely to lose its proper shape. If this happens, you can switch to your backup retainer, or schedule a visit to the orthodontist to get a new set of retainers printed.
What Happens if I Don’t Wear My Retainer?
Your retainer is actually a part of your orthodontic care: it’s the third stage of the process of aligning teeth. The retention phase keeps the teeth in their healthy, proper alignment, and prevents them from shifting back to their original, pre-treatment positions.
Without the retainers, there is no force preventing this drift from happening, so your teeth will gradually start to move back. If you never wear your retainers, they can shift so much that the treatment was effectively useless – your teeth will be back out of alignment, and your health and smile will be impacted accordingly.
Many orthodontic patients are adults that already had braces or clear aligners as teenagers, but failed to properly wear their retainers. Their teeth have shifted so much that they are paying once again to align their teeth. Rather than pay for orthodontic care twice, do it once, and wear your retainers properly!
Should I Wear My Retainer if It Doesn’t Fit?
If you have to force your retainer to fit, you shouldn’t wear it: forcing a retainer that doesn’t fit could damage your teeth or the retainer.
Try gently putting the retainer back in your mouth: if you have to force it, then it no longer fits and you should not try to put it in your mouth. Contact your orthodontist for a visit: you may need to get the retainer adjusted, or get a new retainer.
If your teeth have shifted slightly due to irregular wear but your retainer still fits without too much force, go back to wearing your it full-time until it becomes comfortable again. Make sure to remove your retainer only when brushing and eating or drinking. Your teeth may feel sensitive for a few days, but the sensitivity will eventually fade and the retainer will become more comfortable. At that point, you can reduce to night-time only wear.
If a retainer is misshapen or damaged, it may also be too loose: while this is less likely to damage your teeth, a retainer that is too loose will not provide the necessary retention force to keep your teeth from shifting. Contact your orthodontist so they can examine your retainer.
Retainer Adjustment at Home
Is your retainer not fitting? If it’s too loose, or too tight to put comfortable in your mouth, then it is no longer fitting. Don’t force it – and don’t try to adjust it at home! Your orthodontist has special instruments for adjusting orthodontic appliances.
If you try to adjust it at home, you can further damage the appliance, or warp the shape so that it no longer functions.
Your orthodontist can adjust the retainer at the office so it fits better, or if that’s not possible, they can fit you for a new retainer.
A retainer is a medical device: only your orthodontist should adjust it, to ensure it is effective and safe for your mouth.