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What Happens if I Don’t Wear My Teeth Retainer?

By Manjari Bansal
Not wearing dental retainers can cause your newly-straightened teeth to shift. Find out more about the effects of skipping retainers.

If you haven't been wearing your retainers after a teeth straightening treatment, you could face several consequences. Your teeth may shift back, your bite could change, and you may begin to require orthodontic treatment again. Read on for more about four common consequences of not wearing retainers.

Orthodontic Relapse 

Our teeth keep shifting throughout life. In order to hold the teeth in the desired position after orthodontic treatment, retainers are a must, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. The prime role of retainers is to prevent teeth from moving back to their pre-treatment placement.

“Not wearing retainers can lead to relapse in our teeth positions—meaning they tend to go back to their starting position,” Vick Gupta, DDS, an orthodontist at Gupta Orthodontics in Dallas, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

“This is especially true in the first year after completing orthodontic treatment, as our gingival (gum) and ligament fibers are reorganizing to the new teeth positions during this time,” Gupta says.

Worsening of Teeth Alignment

“Another consequence of neglecting to wear retainers is that the teeth may shift into a position worse than before. The patient may require braces again, for a longer period of time. No matter what, once the treatment is over, they must wear the retainer in order to keep their smile proper,” Mahnaz Rashti, DDS, a periodontist in Beverly Hills, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Teeth are subjected to continued forces in the mouth when you bite, chew, talk, or swallow. Retainers help counteract these forces and maintain proper dental alignment. Without retainers, the drifting of teeth cannot be controlled, the American Association of Orthodontists explains.

Changes in Your Bite

Just as the failure to wear your retainer can cause shifts in your teeth, it can create unwanted changes in your bite too.

“During the straightening of teeth, orthodontists are also fixing a patient's bite. This is also maintained with the retainer and the bite tends to shift back if retainers are not worn. This can lead to uncomfortable sensations for patients when biting down,” Gupta explains.

Necessity to Repeat Treatment

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, the “retention” stage of orthodontic care is as significant as the “active” phase of orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners. During the retention phase immediately after the completion of orthodontic treatment, retainers hold the teeth in their new positions while bone rebuilds around them and stabilizes them. 

This phase is highly important for maintaining a teeth straightening treatment in the long term. Therefore, if you skip retainers during it, you risk losing all the orthodontic progress you’ve just made. 

“Since the teeth shift without the retainer, the patient would require getting braces all over again. This means that all the time and money spent has been wasted and now, they must pay for a new round of treatment,” Rashti says.

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