If it has been years since you had your braces removed, you may find yourself trying to remember when the last time was that you wore your retainer. It isn’t uncommon for patients to begin to see new gaps in their teeth and other signs of tooth misalignment over the years. If you have recently stumbled upon an old retainer, you may be wondering if it is still an effective solution to re-straightening your smile to its once perfect condition.

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Can an old retainer still be used years later?

Why Teeth Shift After Braces

Braces work by applying tension through brackets and wires that force your teeth to move into a straighter position. Once that pressure is removed after your braces come off, your gums and bone may attempt to return to their former misaligned conditions.

To maintain the new structure of your teeth after having braces removed, you will need to use a retainer. A retainer will need to be worn daily for a scheduled amount of time. Once your gums and bone have adequately adjusted to support the new position of your teeth, the amount of time required for you to wear your retainer will reduce. Not following your orthodontist schedule or only wearing your retainer sporadically will result in your teeth shifting back to their previous position.

How Retainers Work

Following the successful straightening of your teeth, your orthodontist will remove your braces and thoroughly clean your teeth. At this time, a fresh set of X-rays and impressions will be taken. These impressions will be used to make a custom-made retainer for your newly straightened smile.

Retainers work by supporting the new alignment of your teeth and jaw bone so the teeth do not shift after braces have been removed. Most often, a retainer must be worn continuously for six months or more following the removal of any orthodontic appliances. Your orthodontist will provide you with instructions for how long your retainer must be worn to prevent your teeth from shifting back to their original, flawed positions. While some retainers are removable, some are permanently cemented into place.

The Case For Wearing an Old Retainer

Eventually, you will outgrow your need for wearing a retainer over time, especially once you’re straight teeth are assured for life. Sometimes, misalignment can return over the years. Whether it is due to poor Dental Care practices, missing teeth, or impacted wisdom teeth, you may find yourself looking for a way to straighten your smile once again.

In most cases, wearing an old retainer can realign your smile so long as your teeth have not shifted into an entirely new position. As a rule of thumb, wearing an old retainer should not be an issue so long as it still fits without needing to apply any force while inserting it over your teeth.

When a New Retainer May Be Needed

If your old retainer does not fit at all, a new one can easily be fabricated for your teeth. The new retainer will keep your teeth where they currently are, but it will not be able to move them back into their original straightened position. To properly realign your teeth to how they looked at the moment when your braces were removed, additional braces or clear aligner therapy would be necessary.

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What To Do If Your Teeth Are No Longer Straight

If you stopped wearing your retainer or you did not follow your initial orthodontist instructions for how long to wear your retainer, you may have noticed a slight shifting of your teeth back to their original misaligned position. Re-straightening a perfectly aligned smile is easier than you may think. Braces may only need to be worn for a short period of time to re-straighten your smile, and your orthodontist can help. If your once-perfect teeth are no longer as straight as you’d like for them to be, contact Thomas Orthodontics today.