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Help, I lost my removable retainer! What now?

Happy New Year! We hope you had a restful and enjoyable Xmas break. For our first post of 2019, we thought it’d be a good idea to address a question many of our patients ask: What happens if I lose my retainer?

Please remind me — why must I wear a retainer?

A retainer is an essential part of your treatment, and your orthodontist should have explained why. But, in case he/she didn’t, here’s the reason: Once your braces come off, like ‘the cat that came back,’ your teeth will tend to try to return to their original crooked positions. A retainer’s job is to ensure those teeth stay put and resist future time or growth-related change.

There are two types of removable retainers: One, which is most common, looks like a plate; the other, which adults usually wear, looks like an Invisalign ©.

Most people wear a retainer full time for six to 12 months and then cut down to wearing it only at night for six to 12 months. Ideally, though, to ensure your teeth remain perfectly straight, wearing a retainer should be a lifetime commitment — although usually just for a couple of nights a week.

Watch out for Fido

At Turner Lim Orthodontists, we hear all kinds of tales about retainers going AWAL. One of our patients, for example, lost a set on the Rangitoto Ferry — probably while having a quick ‘hurley.’ You may be surprised to learn, though, that a common reason for retainer disappearance is the family pooch — dogs love retainers! Why? Well, not because they, too, desire a perfect smile. No, rather they love their owners, and a retainer will have the wearer’s scent all over it. So, to cut a long story short, if you own a dog, keep your retainer beyond its reach.

So, what if I lose my retainer?

Anyway, if you’ve misplaced your retainer — or your dog ate it — it’s not the end of the world. There is a misconception that your teeth will hurriedly return to where they were before you started your orthodontic treatment. This is not the case. However, particularly if your orthodontist removed your braces recently (within two years), it is important to get a new retainer quickly, ideally within a week.

Should you eventually find your retainer, you may discover that it no longer fits that well, depending on for how long it was missing. In this case, your orthodontist can usually make adjustments.

Look after your retainer

If you bend a wire on your retainer, you can push your teeth out of line. So, like with braces, it’s important to take care of your retainer and check that the wire doesn’t become loose or distorted. Eating the wrong kind of food is a sure way to cause problems, so stay away from anything that is hard or sticky, like toffee or corn on the cob.

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