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Will Wearing an Old Retainer Move My Teeth Back?


First, let’s understand how ‘straightening teeth’ works. Braces use bracket-and-wire technology to apply light, continuous pressure on the teeth. Gradually, over time, this pressure shifts the teeth in the desired alignment, creating your perfect smile. When your braces come off and they’re no longer applying pressure to your teeth, your teeth are susceptible to reverting or “relapsing” back to their original position.

That’s why a retainer is so important! Once your braces or Invisalign® phase ends, your retainer phase begins. Your retainer plays the key role of holding your smile in its place. You’re meant to wear your retainer day and night for a period of time.

Orthodontic Relapse

If you choose not to wear your retainer as instructed, you’re likely to experience orthodontic relapse as your teeth shift back to their pre-treatment position. As your retention phase continues, if you experience orthodontic relapse any time in the future, you may be tempted to wear an old retainer to shift your teeth back.

Can you wear an old retainer to shift your teeth back?

Generally speaking, you can use an old retainer to treat an unfortunate case of teeth relapse. If it’s been over a decade since you’ve used the retainer, or your mouth has grown or your teeth have relapsed significantly, do not use an old retainer.

Never try to force your old retainer in your mouth. This can not only damage your retainer, but damage your smile too. If you have to exert any force to fit your retainer, see your orthodontist first and do not put it in your mouth.

When a New Retainer is Necessary

If your old retainer doesn’t fit, we can create a new one for you. The new retainer will only be able to keep your teeth where they currently are; it cannot always realign your teeth back to their fresh-out-of-treatment position.

Teeth that relapse significantly will likely require another orthodontic treatment. Fortunately, realigning teeth that were previously aligned through treatment is simpler than you may think! The teeth may only require a 6-month treatment to return back to the desired position.

What should I do?

If your retainer is no longer fitting, the best thing you can is contact us! We will evaluate the changes to help you make the best decision for your smile.

At Local Orthodontics, we’re here to help you—from your very first visit, to the day your braces or Invisalign treatment is complete! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. We’d love to hear from you.

If you haven’t received your complimentary exam yet, we encourage you to request one today!