Ask an Orthodontist: Wearing An Old Retainer

Orthodontic retainers are custom-made devices that hold teeth in position after braces or any method of realigning teeth. This week, Dr. Ron Maddox, an orthodontist at Smile Generation-approved office Crossroads Dental Group in Upland, CA, answers a question about retainers.

Sean O sent us the following message:

“Hello just seeking some advice here. So I have had my braces off for about 6 months and I had my retainer and I wore it every night. I went to my orthodontist recently after I got my braces off to get checked and I tried my retainer on there and the assistant looked at me and even if looked like my retainer was still snug and fit right, she said she would make me a new one and so she did but I saved my old retainer just in case. So I was wearing my new retainer every night and then I noticed it was lose I took it out and found a crack in it and I was like ready to cry because it’s a lot of money to get a new one made and then I remembered that I saved my old one.

I was skeptical about wearing my old one and I continued to wear the new one because the crack was really tiny and it still put pressure on my top two front teeth which I find are the two that move the most. So I have been wearing it for a while and in fact I am still wearing the new one at the moment right now the one with the crack in it.

Right now I am at a sleep over camp and I noticed the crack got bigger and now I am really worried about my teeth and I was wondering if it would be okay to switch back to my old original retainer that I saved. I tried it on a couple of days ago and it was really tight and painful on my front teeth so obviously they shifted a little bit and I am willing to wear the retainer since I only wear it at night and deal with the pain to keep my straight teeth. I was wondering if by wearing my old retainer would it harm teeth. Is it okay to wear it?”

Here is Dr. Maddox’s reply:
“Great question Sean!
Many patients have asked me about this issue over the years.
Since your orthodontist decided to fabricate a new retainer, I would not recommend wearing your “old original” retainer. Your doctor must have noticed some changes that required a new retainer & that is most likely the reason that the original retainer is really tight & painful. You were right to be skeptical! The best plan is to keep wearing your new retainer & schedule an appointment with your orthodontist as soon as you return from camp to allow them to check your retainer & see if it can be repaired to prevent the crack from getting any worse.
You & your family have invested a great deal of time & resources to help create a beautiful smile—you are very smart to make sure your retainer fits properly.
I hope that you had a fun time at camp & that you will call your orthodontist as soon as you return.
Keep on Smiling!
Dr. M”


Dr. Ron Maddox  has been practicing dentistry for over 22 years. He is a practicing orthodontist at Crossroads Dental Group, a Smile Generation-approved office, in Upland, CA. He also enjoys surfing, golf, music and photography.

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2 Responses to “Ask an Orthodontist: Wearing An Old Retainer”

  1. I agree! The size of retainers might change along with the process of teeth correction. Wearing an old one can be a potential negative risk to your teeth as well. I suggest just keeping your old one as a remembrance. 😀

  2. As a Raleigh dentist, I agree that wearing an old retainer is definitely something that you don’t want to do.
    Retainers are usually fitted specifically for your teeth and though you don’t know it your teeth are constantly changing.