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You have worked hard to achieve a perfect smile. You wore clear aligners or braces for months. Now, when you flash your pearly whites in the mirror, you love what you see. There is just one problem. You lost your retainer! Wearing aligners is an essential step in maintaining a beautiful smile. Instead of stressing out about a lost retainer, read more to learn what to do if you lost your retainer
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What Happens If You Do Not Wear Your Retainer?

First, let us look at why it is important to wear a retainer after braces. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, if you are not wearing retainers the stipulated time that will result in teeth moving back to their misaligned position. This can happen through habitual facial and muscular habits when eating, drinking, talking, or sleeping. Unless these habits are corrected, the tongue or face muscles push on the teeth and cause them to move. Also, when an aligner is not worn regularly and teeth begin to shift, a new mold will need to be made by the orthodontist in order to fabricate a new one. This can result in unforeseen costs.

what to do lost retainer

How Long Can You Go Without Your Retainer?

Teeth won’t immediately move out of place after you lose your retainer. For example, if you lose it on Monday, on Tuesday teeth won't be misaligned. Additional studies are needed to determine precisely how long you can go without your aligners. However, some movement can be expected if you don’t follow the instructions provided by the orthodontist.

I Lost My Retainer: What Should I Do?

Now it is time to look at what you need to do. The process is a bit easier than you might expect.

Probably the first thing that came to your mind after realizing that you don’t know where is your retainer was: ‘if i lost my retainer do i have to pay for a new one.’ Well, the most ideal solution is: yes, you have to. However, if you’ve lost your retainer recently and you have been wearing it regularly, there is a good chance the orthodontist can fabricate a new one from your most current impressions.

What if you lost your it weeks or months ago? If this is the case, the process is a bit different, because there is a chance your teeth have already shifted. Your orthodontist will need to take an intraoral scan or dental impression. The new scan or impression will be used to make your new ones. If you skip this step, you could end up with an ill-fitting aligner that does more harm than good.

lost retainer what to do

Do you feel embarrassed about going to the orthodontist? Your orthodontist has helped countless people who have lost their retainers (no matter the types of retainers they lost). You don’t need to explain yourself. Your orthodontist will be happy to help you and get you a replacement.

How Much Is a Replacement Retainer?

The first that comes to your mind after losing an aligner is: how much is a new retainer? Replacing retainer cost will depend on where you purchase it. You can expect to pay $200-$500 if you get it directly from your orthodontist’s office (it is the average retainers’ cost in office, it will depend on some factors like if they’re Essix or active retainers, the dental professional you chose, etcetera.). However, it will be cheaper if you went with an online company.

If you wonder which is the best online retainer replacement, we recommend you to check the leading alignment companies as they charge less than $100 for a replacement. You’ll pay for replacing retainer $95 if you order your set from SnapCorrect. The following companies charge $99 per replacement set:

However, these brands offer those prices if you are already a customer who has paid an alignment plan; if not, one of the best options is the brand SportingSmiles which provides a high-quality set of retainers for just $135.

Also keep in mind that prices will go up the longer you wait to replace your retainers. If you wait too long, you’ll have to wear braces or clear aligners again. This can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to your treatment. What would have cost $100 or so dollars can become $1,000 or more dollars without quick action.

DIY Retainer: Is It a Good Option?

Some people try to save money by making the replacement retainer by themselves. While the DIY method might sound enticing, it can lead to some serious problems. DIY retainers are made in a myriad of ways, from manipulating mass-produced mouth guards to using rubber bands and other items to keep the teeth in place. When you go this route, you could end up with an orthodontic nightmare.

Your DIY aligner won’t put the correct amount of pressure on your teeth. This could cause some of your teeth to move out of place. Professionally made retainers apply the right amount of pressure and are a much safer option.

And What About Wearing an Old Retainer?

After you lost your aligner, you might have come across an old one you used to wear. It is still intact, so you are considering wearing it to prevent your teeth from moving. 

First of all, retainers need to fit if you want to maintain a straight smile. It is highly unlikely that your old one provides an accurate fit. That causes complications far higher. But if it still fits, the second thing you should do is clean them.  Visit our blogpost about how to clean retainers.

If it doesn’t fit, it can cause a great deal of pain when you put it in your mouth. It can also get stuck, and then you’ll have to go to the orthodontist to have it removed. This could damage your teeth.

Your old retainer could also cause your teeth to shift in undesirable ways. You then might need additional orthodontic care to fix your alignment issues.

Don’t Go Without Your Retainer

Losing your retainer is common for people who are straightening their teeth. It is frustrating, but you can fix the problem. If you just lost them, get a replacement from the online company you currently use. Replacements are affordable, and you’ll receive it quickly.

If you lost it weeks or months ago, your teeth may have moved. Then you’ll need to visit the orthodontist to get new scans or impressions. Your orthodontist can make an impression for you, or you can send the scans or impressions to an online company to fabricate it. Either way, the new one will fit your teeth and allow you to preserve your smile.

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

When can I stop wearing my retainers?

If you stop wearing your retainers, your teeth can move and will relapse. If this happens, you must start your orthodontic treatment again to fix your smile. So, you must wear your aligners the specified hours and months your orthodontist told you.

What to do if retainers break?

If you break your aligners, you should contact your orthodontist or your treatment brand so they can send you a replacement.

Is it ok to start wearing my old retainers again?

No, it is not okay. Your old retainers won’t probably fit you well, causing your teeth to shift in different positions. If you are planning on wearing an old one, first consult your orthodontist.

Can you force your retainer to fit again?

You mustn´t. Forcing your it to fit back in can cause damage to your teeth or restoration teeth. To use right your aligners, they have to fit correctly.

What can I use instead of a retainer?

If you lose or break your aligners, you have to call your orthodontist so they can tell you what to do next. Never try to make your own DIY braces or use a previous retainer; that will cause severe problems to your teeth and oral health.

How long can I go without my retainer until my teeth move?

There’s no exact time until teeth move, but it won´t happen in a day; you can go from 15 to 20 days without wearing it. However, it´s recommended that you immediately contact the clinic or brand to have a new one as soon as possible whenever you lose or break it.

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Medically reviewed by Kandice Swarthout

Kandice Swarthout, RDH, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dental Hygienist. She is a full-time dental hygiene educator in Texas. Kandice is the owner of Inspired Education & Wellness where she is a speaker and writer and combines her clinical dental and mental health experience to help other healthcare professionals have a fulfilling work-life experience. Read Kandice’s column, Counselor’s Corner, in Dentistry IQ and her blog on Facebook titled Fearless Compassion: Stories of Personal Triumph.

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