The Scary Results of Neglecting Your Retainers

After undergoing months of intensive orthodontic treatment to improve your smile, you tend to walk out of the final appointment extremely committed to following all the aftercare instructions your orthodontist provides you regarding wearing your retainers. After all, you want to do everything you can to keep your teeth straight. Unfortunately, sometimes that dedication and commitment to following instructions tend to lessen and before you know it, you are completely neglecting your retainer.

Think it isn’t a big deal that you aren’t wearing your retainer? Think again. Learn about some of the scary things that can happen if you neglect your retainer.

Bacteria Can Grow on the Retainer if Not Properly Cleaned

Failure to properly clean retainers is one of the most common forms of retainer neglect that we see at an orthodontist office. People fail to properly clean their retainer because they are running short on time, don’t know the proper way to clean their retainer, or just don’t know that retainers need to be cleaned.

Retainers come into direct contact with a lot of things ranging from sugars and acids to bacteria and food particles. Cleaning your retainer will not only prevent bacteria that can harm your teeth and cause tooth decay from growing on it, but it will extend the lifetime of the retainer.

The following tips will help you keep your retainer properly cleaned:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your retainer
  • Use toothpaste that doesn’t have any abrasive materials or ingredients in it. Abrasive materials can cause tiny scratches to appear on the retainer. Those scratches provide the perfect place for bacteria to grow.
  • Clean your retainer at least once a day.
  • Clean your retainer immediately if it has been exposed to sugar or acids.
  • Your retainer can be soaked regularly in pure white distilled vinegar to clean and disinfect it

Teeth Start to Shift Without a Retainer

Many people assume that because the orthodontic treatment worked so well that they no longer have to wear their retainers. That isn’t the case. If you fail to wear your retainer, your teeth will slowly shift and you will end up with crooked or misaligned teeth.

The teeth naturally want to shift, many times back toward their original positions. Your retainers keep your teeth straight by preventing them from shifting and moving after orthodontic treatment.

Of course, failing to wear your retainer one day isn’t going to mean you will wake up with a completely distorted smile. However, if you continue to neglect your retainer and don’t wear it as you are supposed to, you will slowly notice changes in your smile and eventually, your teeth will be misaligned.

To prevent your teeth from shifting, do the following:

  • After your braces are removed, wear your retainers full time as instructed by your orthodontist, usually for about six months.  You can remove the retainers to eat and brush your teeth, so retainer wear should usually be close to 22 hours per day during this phase.
  • After six months, you will likely be able to slowly transition to wearing your retainer only at night. Your retainer will still need to be worn consistently but only while you sleep.
  • Retainers will need to be worn for your entire life if you wish to keep your teeth straight.
  • Your retainers could last many years, but if they are lost or broken, new ones can be made.  The sooner you get to your orthodontist when you encounter a problem like this, the better. The longer you wait, the more likely you will have significant shifting.

Has it been a while since you have worn your retainer?  If so, it is time that you see Dr. Reddick at Reddick Orthodontics before your teeth have more time to shift.  Call Reddick Orthodontics today to schedule an appointment. Dr. Reddick will be able to assess your individual case and determine if you just need a new retainer or if your teeth have shifted so much that you may need to undergo orthodontic treatment.


We have missed seeing everyone!  We are finally able to go back to work and look forward to seeing all of our patients and their families.  We are in the process of calling everyone who has missed an appointment during our forced office closure to reschedule and get back on track.  We will be working overtime in the coming months to do what we can to help. Unfortunately, our time out of work will delay treatment completion for many and for that we are truly sorry.  Most importantly, we hope this message finds everyone happy and healthy.

The health and safety of our patients, their families, and the community remain our primary focus.  We are taking as many precautions as possible for prevention of spreading COVID-19.  We will remain vigilant with our sterilization and disinfection protocols and we will  be taking additional precautionary measures as well.   If the patient or an immediate family member has been sick in the past two weeks, we ask that you please call us to reschedule the appointment to a later date as a precaution.

To limit the traffic in our building, we will be adjusting to a “parking lot waiting area”.  We will have a staff member come out to each vehicle to greet you and check the patient in.  Please call the office if you are not promptly greeted.  There are some types of appointments that require a parent’s participation, so we ask that anyone accompanying the patient into the office wear a mask or face covering.  We can provide masks if necessary. 

We will only be utilizing half of our operatories to maintain significant distance between patients.  We ask that all of our patients please thoroughly brush their teeth prior to their appointments to limit use of our toothbrushing area.  We have also installed plexiglass barriers between our front desk and the waiting area.  As always, we will continue to be committed to giving each of our patients the best experience possible!

Thank you for your understanding!

The Reddick Orthodontics Team