Can I Reuse An Old Retainer If I Haven’t Worn It In A While?

Retainers can be worn at any age, but are most frequently used early in teeth alignment. By using a retainer at an early age, gaps in the teeth can be corrected. Sometimes teenagers or children will stop wearing a retainer before they are ready. When this happens, many people wonder if they can use the same retainer later on.

To better understand whether a retainer can be reused, the reasons and timeline can make a huge difference. Since not everybody wears a retainer for the same reason, some people may only need a retainer for a short period of time. Even though all retainers are custom-fitted, retainers may no longer work after teeth have shifted.

What Is A Retainer?

Retainers are worn for different reasons. Most people use them when they are young so that teeth can align before adulthood.

A retainer is a custom-made piece of metal and plastic that can often be removed without extra equipment. Removable retainers can come in a variety of colors and patterns and usually come with a case so that it can be stored properly without additional germs from kitchen or desktop surfaces.

Retainers can be worn for a variety of reasons. For those who have braces, retainers are often worn once braces are removed so that teeth do not shift back to their original position. Wearing a retainer can help with current and future oral health.

Reasons To Wear A Retainer Include:

1.) Keeping teeth aligned for a temporary time period after braces.

Usually retainers are worn both day and night, but removable retainers can be used differently. Depending on the advice of an orthodontist, retainers should be worn a certain number of hours for a certain number of months before you no longer need it. Most orthodontists recommend wearing a removable retainer for approximately 9 months after braces have been removed.

2.) Improves breathing.

Many people do not realize that retainers can help with breathing issues. Specialized retainers can be used to to help with breathing-related trouble that usually happens during the night. Adults who snore or cannot take a full breath at night may be advised to use this type of retainer.

3.) Improving speech patterns.

Studies have shown that removable retainers can improve the articulation of consonants and vowels. By adjusting the tongue placement in a child’s mouth, retainers can help them form the correct sounds as their vocabulary develops over time. When used early, these retainers can be hugely beneficial for later in life.

What Happens If You Stop Using A Retainer Before It’s Time?

When braces first come off, it is usually an exciting and memorable moment. Teeth can be perfectly aligned and a smile is usually significantly improved. Wearing a mandatory retainer after braces have already come off can seem unfair.

If you have been advised to wear a retainer, there are good reasons to do so. A retainer will prevent teeth from shifting back into their original positions. So what happens if you stop wearing your retainer or do not wear it for the time period that is suggested? Teeth can become crooked over time.

Wearing a retainer both day and night can be irritating and many “cheat”. If you have worn your retainer for less time than required and teeth have shifted back to their original position, wearing the same retainer later in life may not work.

Reasons You May Want To Wear An Old Retainer

If you have recently noticed that your teeth are no longer aligned as they once were, using an old retainer seems like a natural solution. Since old retainers are custom-made for your specific mouth, reusing one may seem like an obvious solution.

Revisiting the orthodontist or dentist after teeth have shifted can be inconvenient. Depending on health insurance and the oral healthcare professional’s location, it may seem easier (and potentially less-expensive) to reuse an old retainer.

While saving money by using an old retainer may be tempting, it can actually cost more money in the long run.

Should You Wear Your Old Retainer?

Wearing an old retainer may seem convenient, but most oral healthcare providers do not recommend this. An old retainer will likely hurt since it is no longer shaped to your current teeth alignment.

Trying to wear an old retainer that does not fit correctly can push teeth with unnatural force. If a retainer is not guiding teeth into alignment because of a faulty fit, teeth can become loose from the pressure.

Using old retainers can cause damage to the teeth. Loose teeth or teeth that become increasingly misaligned may need professional care after wearing a faulty retainer. Just because it was once custom-fitted to your mouth, does not mean the retainer still fits.

Is There Ever A Time To Reuse An Old Retainer?

Reusing an old retainer can be done, but only under the right circumstances. If an old retainer is used after a long period of time, this can have potential consequences that can be both costly and physically noticeable.

The first question to ask yourself when debating reuse is, just how old is the retainer? If the retainer is over a year old, teeth may have shifted too far out of alignment for an old retainer to have any use. When in doubt, ask an orthodontist or dentist who can tell you exactly how much your teeth have shifted.

Retainers are supposed to be tight. If they didn’t fit snugly against the teeth, the right amount of pressure would not be able to realign the teeth. Old retainers that are too-tight, however, should not be worn. If you experience soreness for an extended period of time, this may be a sign that an old retainer is no longer the right fit for you.


Straight, healthy teeth can benefit not only your smile, but your overall health. Oral care is essential for the human body. Wearing a retainer can feel uncomfortable at first. Because of the pressure that must be applied, the mouth can feel sore or even tender. Even though wearing a retainer can, at first, feel strange, it is best to follow the timeline that is recommended to you by a professional.

That being said, not everybody does. If your teeth have shifted and you are thinking about reusing a retainer, visiting a dentist or orthodontist is recommended first. Just because teeth may be able to realign with an old retainer, doesn’t mean it is a damage-free solution. For more information, talking to a professional is always a good idea.

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