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Re - Using Orthodontic Retainers

Lost retainer tooth shift
Common Retainers

Reusing Retainers Again

Orthodontic retainers are designed by orthodontists and general dentists to hold in place (i.e. retain) the final outcome of orthodontic alignment treatment.

The traditional orthodontic process involves the use standardized brackets and wires that are expertly placed across an entire arch (usually) and are adjusted (via tightening schedules) to slowly and predictably move tooth structures into more desirable positions as defined by the doctor and patient.

Mother nature participates, providing the process by which cellular tissues within the jawbone and root structures permit active modification of the tissue relationships that create the movement result.

Retainer Example
This slow process is required to assure tissue health. Speeding up this process by increasing the tightening cycles can cause irreparable damage to the tooth roots (they can become significantly shorter) and can cause damage to the jawbone.

At the completion of ortho treatment a custom retainer is fabricated to hold in place those tooth structures that have the most propensity for migrating back to their original positions (programmed by nature, re-migration is a normal process). Patients may be required to wear retainers daily, nightly or 24 hours a day. Some are cemented in place while others are removable.

OK - My Teeth Have Shifted but my Retainer Hurts

Retainers get lost, broken, cracked, misplaced, chewed on by the dog, stolen, stepped on, melted into wierd shapes ..... you name it. Sometimes they are simply avoided... or forgotten.

The longer the period of retainer-nonuse... the greater the probability of shifting teeth. For some patients, the remigration of orthodontically moved teeth can begin almost immediately... causing noticeable results in as little as 48 hours.

In general terms, if a retainer is used "again" and causes extreme discomfort or pain, it may signal the need to consult with an orthodontist to assure that no damage will occur to the tooth roots and/or jawbone.

Since a retainer will theoretically apply forces to shifted teeth back to the originally treatment goal immediately, rather than methodically, irreparable tissue damage can result.

In Simple Terms

Brackets, wires or graduated clear retainers (Invisalign) are designed to move teeth healthfully while post treatment Retainers keep things where they are.

Assuming that a retainer can "do the handiwork" of conventional braces is not a valid assumption. Always consult with your orthodontist first.

I Don't Have an Orthodontist Anymore

Patients who have moved or have not seen their care provider in a long time should consider seeking a new orthodontist or orthodontic dentist for the need for retreatment either with conventional ortho treatments or special treatment systems such as Simpli 5, a technology designed for minor ortho treatments that have a short treatment duration.

Editorial Staff

Material provided, in part, by:
A Nazarian, DDS

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