What To Do If You Lose Your Retainer?

May 17, 2024  •  

Our phone rings and the first thing we hear is “I lost my retainer.” We get it. Things happen. Life becomes hectic, and even crazy at times. Retainers become low on the priority list. These calls can be from patients who recently completed orthodontic treatment or patients we haven’t seen in our office for years.

Retainers are an essential part of post-orthodontic treatment after wearing braces or Invisalign, as their job is to literally “retain” the alignment of the straight teeth. When retainers are lost and not replaced quickly, all of the orthodontic treatment successes are reversed as the teeth begin to move away from their perfect alignment.

Retainers come in different sizes and materials, and they are relatively small and removable. And chances are, if you are reading this, then either you or your child has lost their retainer. So, if you’re frantically searching for solutions after losing your retainer or are curious about what to do if it ever happens, don’t worry as we’ll guide you through what to do.

Your orthodontic treatment is complete–the braces are off, and you’ve achieved the perfectly aligned teeth you had always desired. The orthodontist will make retainers to keep your teeth in their newly perfected positions. Your great new smile is only maintained if you wear retainers as the orthodontist prescribes. Without the retainers, your teeth will begin to shift away from their ideal position.

Most retainers are removable, so patients are expected to be compliant in wearing them. And because they are removable, people will sometimes forget to put them back on after eating or misplace them (hopefully temporarily). If a significant amount of time passes before they are either worn again or found, there is a chance that the retainers don’t fit properly anymore. That’s because the teeth have shifted.

So, what happens if you lose your retainer? When the retainer isn’t worn for even 2 or 3 days, teeth start moving slightly. This movement might not result in a very noticeable alignment change, but things can spiral out of control quickly as the days without a retainer add up. By the time the retainers are out for a week, there is a noticeable change in your smile. At this point if you find the retainers and try them back in they might be uncomfortable, painful, or most likely won’t fit.

Hopefully reading to this point shows that retainers are essential to maintaining a great smile. Teeth can, and will, move quickly without them. Therefore, if you lose the retainers contact the orthodontist immediately. Here is a table to give you a general idea of the impact not wearing a retainer for a prolonged amount of time can cause.

Time Span 1 week
Teeth Displacement
  • Slight movement of teeth
  • Slight tooth rotation and gaps
  • Retainer may still fit without any discomfort
Time Span 1 month
Teeth Displacement
  • Moderate tooth movement
  • Bite Issues may relapse
  • Retainer will not fit
Time Span Over a year
Teeth Displacement
  • Teeth will significantly shift, sometimes back to the pre-treatment position
  • Bite problems can become severe
  • Braces may be needed again

What To Do If You Lost Your Retainer?

Losing your retainer is an awful feeling, especially if treatment was just completed and the retainers are new. But don’t panic because your teeth will not significantly move in a day or two. Start retracing your steps and see if you can find the retainer.

If you are unsuccessful in finding your retainer, then the next step is to call your orthodontist to schedule an appointment to get a replacement retainer as soon as possible. During the time between losing your retainer and receiving your replacement retainer, follow any guidance your orthodontist provides. Don’t delay in getting that new retainer because you think you might find it in a few weeks. At that point, the teeth will have moved significantly.

How Can You Prevent Your Retainer From Being Lost?

How Can You Prevent Your Retainer From Being Lost

We understand that removable retainers are easily lost or misplaced. They are small and sometimes even transparent. We stress developing good habits from day one, and we walk you through that entire process. Here are some preventive measures you can take to prevent losing or breaking your retainer:

  • Ensure your retainer is correctly placed in your mouth. Do NOT bite it into place, or use your tongue.
  • Remove the retainer with your fingers and NOT your tongue. This will increase its longevity.
  • Store the retainer in the provided case. We are happy to give you more than one (such as keeping one at school), just ask us!
  • DO NOT put your retainer in your pocket, bookbag, or lunch box.
  • Avoid placing your retainer in a napkin during meals, as it could inadvertently end up in the trash or become damaged.
  • Keep a reminder on your phone to put your retainer back once you’ve completed your meal
  • Go for a brightly colored case and designate a specific spot to store it in, making it easier to keep track of.
  • Dogs love to chew on retainers. We don’t know why, but they do. Keep the retainers out of their reach, and obviously in the case.

What to Expect At Your Retainer Replacement Appointment At Mellion Orthodontics?

Even after looking everywhere, you didn’t find that retainer, and now you are back in our office to get a new one. The visit won’t last long, probably about 20 minutes. We will take an impression or scan your teeth to make a new one. Before you leave we will set up another visit in a few days for you to get the new retainer. During that time our lab technician fabricates the new retainer.

In Need For A Retainer Replacement: Mellion Orthodontics Is Here To Preserve Your Beautiful Smile!

If you’ve lost your retainer, misplaced it, or your retainer doesn’t fit you well anymore, the best thing you can do to prevent your corrected smile is to contact us immediately. At Mellion Orthodontics, we have a team of experienced orthodontists, prompt services, and state-of-the-art technology to make your new retainer quickly. You can call us to schedule your appointment or directly visit us at our clinic to get your new set of retainers.

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Caring for New Permanent Teeth

Dr. Nathan Mellion Author

Written by Dr. Mellion

Dr Nathan Mellion, DDS, is a seasoned practitioner specializing in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics based in Uniontown, OH. With 15 years of professional experience, Dr. Mellion graduated from the College of Dentistry at Ohio State University in 2008. After their education, he completed a residency program at Saint Louis University’s Center for Advanced Dental Education. Dr. Nathan Mellion operates from Mellion Orthodontics, where he has garnered a remarkable average patient rating of 5.0/5 based on 8 reviews. His practice warmly welcomes new patients.


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