Why Isn’t My Retainer Fitting?

After many months or even years of wearing braces, the day they are removed can be very exciting. Of course, it is important to retain the teeth following braces or Invisalign to prevent them from shifting out of place once the braces come off. To help newly-straightened teeth maintain their position after braces have been removed, an orthodontist will have custom retainers created just for you.

While retainers are usually personalized to each person’s mouth, they do not always fit properly. If you find that your retainer, or your child’s retainer, does not fit after a certain period, it may be time to get them readjusted or get a new retainer all together. Read on to discover some reasons why your retainer might not be fitting properly anymore.

Damage to the Retainer

One of the most common reasons that a retainer stops fitting properly is due to damage to the retainer itself. Most retainers are constructed of durable plastic and metal. However, certain environmental influences can impact the structure of a retainer, causing it to become distorted. For example, drinking a hot beverage while wearing the retainer could cause the plastic to warp. Running the retainer under very hot water or dunking it into boiling water could distort the plastic. Some wearers will also chew or bite on the retainer, often unintentionally, causing damaging it.

While warping is most common with plastic retainers, wire retainers can also succumb to damage. Traditional wire and acrylic retainers may warp if they are removed from the mouth incorrectly. When the metal becomes distorted, it will no longer fit around the teeth properly, resulting in discomfort. Various accidents can also result in damage to a retainer, such as accidentally sitting on it, dropping it onto a hard surface, or leaving it in a hot car in the summer. To prevent damage, it is important to store a retainer in a case when not in use.  Playing with your retainer (like clicking it in and out over and over) can significantly loosen the wires or even break a wire.  

Shifting of Teeth

Another common reason why a retainer may stop fitting is that the wearer does not wear them faithfully. After braces are removed, the orthodontist will usually recommend that the patient wear the retainers close to full time for a period, then only at night after that. If a person goes too long without wearing their retainers, their teeth could shift causing the retainer to feel too tight or not fit at all. This can easily be prevented by wearing the retainer as instructed.

The first few months after the removal of braces are the most important. During this time, you do not want to go too long without putting in your retainers. Some orthodontists will recommend wearing a retainer while you sleep, while others may require wearing a retainer around-the-clock for the first few months. If you are unsure of how often you should wear your retainer, speak with your orthodontist, as treatment plans can vary from patient to patient.

Wisdom Teeth Eruption

Wisdom teeth refer to the third and last set of molars to emerge, usually sometime in a person’s late teens or early twenties. While wisdom teeth can sometimes be beneficial if healthy and well-aligned, they often cause problems if they are misaligned or impacted. If wisdom teeth decide to erupt after braces are removed, it can also affect how a retainer fits in the mouth.

If a person’s wisdom teeth are likely to negatively impact their orthodontic treatment, an orthodontist may recommend that they are removed before the treatment begins. If the wisdom teeth erupt properly and do not affect the surrounding teeth, your orthodontist may suggest keeping them. In this case, a new retainer can be made to fit your mouth with your newly-emerged wisdom teeth, but many times the same retainers can continue to be used.

Jaw Development

In addition to the eruption of new teeth, changes to the jaw can also prevent a retainer from fitting properly. The bones in the face can continue to grow until a person’s late teens or early twenties, although most of the time this has little to no effect on the fit of the retainers. If the jaw changes a lot after orthodontic treatment, it could affect the fit of your retainers. Retainers are not equipped to control or restrain jaw growth and it may be necessary to have a new retainer made if the one that you have no longer fits properly. However, adverse jaw growth is rare and is typically a concern only for patients with asymmetrical jaw growth or excessive lower jaw growth.

If you notice that your retainer is not fitting properly, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Melbourne Orthodontics! We can help you get your retainer fitting properly again and on the way to a straight and beautiful smile for life!