Can I Wear My Old Retainer?

Let’s say it mal-uh-kloo-zhun. That’s  malocclusion – it’s the word that dentists use to describe the misalignment of teeth. When your dentist notices this, they recommend you see an orthodontist, who will then determine if you need braces or another orthodontic treatment to correct your bite.

Our blog receives many questions about braces, retainers and other orthodontic matters for our “Ask an Orthodontist” column, featuring Dr. Ron Maddox, who is a practicing orthodontist at Crossroads Dental Group, a Smile Generation-approved office in Upland, California.


Reader Kristina sent us this question:

“I have a question. I am 28 and had my braces removed at 17. I wore my retainer (which is the clear plastic kind no wires) for about a year after. I’ve had my wisdom teeth removed and recently found my old retainers. I put them both on and at first they wouldn’t even stay on but after 20 minutes they would. It hurt a little and I want to wear them again at night. But my question is… is it wise? Since it has been 10 years, I’m wondering if I could loosen my teeth by making them move back in place so quickly. I read about the possibility of them ripping from the gums? What is best for me to do?”

Here is Dr. Maddox’s reply:

“Dear Kristina,

That is amazing that you found your old retainers still intact! Most patients have a hard time keeping track of them even right after they get their braces off!! The type of retainer you described is made from a very thin sheet of plastic that is carefully molded over a model of your teeth after your braces are removed. 

There are 2 reasons that the retainers hurt when you put them on: The retainers may have become slightly distorted since they are very thin & there may have been some slight shifting of your teeth.  I don’t believe the retainers will cause the teeth to “rip” from your gums, but they may make your teeth feel loose after you take them off since they are putting pressure on the teeth. 

The wisdom you have gained over the past 10 years has served you well—the best decision is to schedule an appointment with your orthodontist so that they can assess the changes that have occurred & help you chose the best option to maintain your beautiful smile & limit any further shifting of the teeth. There have been many technological advances in the fabrication of aligners & retainers over the past decade. 

If you have moved to a different city & need assistance finding an orthodontist, you can log on to & we can direct you to a qualified doctor that can help you keep your smile beautiful & healthy for many decades to come.

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. You can connect with him on

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4 Responses to “Can I Wear My Old Retainer?”

  1. I haven’t been wearing my retainer often, but when I do, I am afraid of wearing it again. After a night of having it on, one of my tooth gets very loose as if to about fall out feeling… is that normal or will that one tooth fall out? Should I keep wearing my clear plastic retainer?

    • Hello,

      You should be evaluated in order to determine whether your current retainer is properly fitted. We recommend you see a dentist or orthodontist for an evaluation.

  2. So I have had braces in 2007-2009 and would wear retainer day and night every day but I stoped wearing my bottom retainer for a year now and want to wear it again but I notice that my teeth as moved a little is it safe to wear my retainer still or do I have to get a new one?

    • It is possible that your front teeth have shifted and that has affected your retainer from fitting normally. You need to be evaluated in order to determine whether your current retainer is safe to wear. I would recommend you see a dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible for an evaluation.