“I lost my retainer” is a phrase typed into the Google search engine far too often. But, there's no use dwelling on the past, so what do you do now?
Thankfully, you have a couple of options. You can call your orthodontist to order a new one, or you can order a custom teeth retainer online.
But what if you lost your retainer a few months ago, or even a few years ago?
In this article, you'll learn all about what to do if you lose your retainer, including:
- What to do when you lose your retainer
- What happens when you lose your retainer
- How long before your teeth start shifting
- Tips for not losing your retainer
We hope this information helps you figure out what to do. But whether you order a custom retainer online, or you get one from your dentist, the important thing is to begin wearing your personalized retainer again as soon as possible.
If you're short on time and ready to order your new retainers now online, you can do so with Sporting Smiles. They offer affordable, custom-made retainers. Use code SMILE10 to get 10% off your Sporting Smiles order.
Table of contents
I lost my retainer
So, you lost your retainer. What's the big deal?
Actually, it could end up being a pretty big deal if you go too long without your retainer. That's because retainers do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to keeping your teeth straight.
Many of us assume that once we get our braces off, there's no more work to be done. However, your teeth became very accustomed to the position they held until you had braces, and they'll be quite eager to go back for as long as you have teeth.
That means that once you get your braces off, if there's nothing to hold your teeth in place, they'll slowly move back into an unaligned position.
For this reason, almost everybody has to wear a retainer after braces for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, retainers usually only need to be worn during the night — although during the first couple of weeks after getting your braces off your orthodontist may also recommend that you wear it during the day.
Despite the importance of wearing a retainer, one study found that the compliance rate of wearing retainers every night after 24 months fell to just 45%. And another study found that the ease with which retainers could be lost was one of the main reasons for a patient's non-compliance with retainer wear.
What happens if I lose my retainer?
Depending on how long ago you lost your retainer, there are a few things that could happen. One of the things that we mentioned above is that your teeth can actually shift back into a crooked position.
They won't go back to the exact original position they started in, per se, but teeth are dynamic and they constantly want to move. They might flare out, they might overlap, they might arch.
To add to that, your gums and teeth are more flexible right after long-term orthodontic treatment. And because the brackets and wires of braces are no longer holding your teeth in place, your teeth will move.
To get an idea of what will happen as time goes by:
- 1 week: Your teeth will begin to shift, but your retainer might still fit
- 1 month: You will begin to see moderate teeth shifting
- 1 year: Old malocclusion problems may return, and you may need orthodontic treatment again
These shifts can result in a variety of consequences, including bite problems, sores along the gum line, gum disease and bone loss. You can read more about what happens to severely misaligned teeth in our full guide to malocclusion.
You can also read more about not wearing a retainer for a month and what happens.
I lost my retainer and my teeth are shifting
During the first few days, weeks, and even months of not wearing your retainer, you may not notice any visible difference in your teeth. But that doesn't mean there haven't been any changes. Those changes slowly add up so that after a year or two goes by, you might suddenly notice that you have crooked teeth again.
You might also be able to feel your teeth shifting, and as they do you could encounter problems along your gumline. You might notice your bite is misaligned.
It's important to keep your teeth aligned, not just for aesthetics but also for your oral and overall health. Start wearing a retainer again as soon as possible.
The problem is, if your teeth have shifted too much, your old retainer (if you do find it) won't fit anymore, so you'll need to get a new one. And if your teeth have shifted to the point where they are noticeably misaligned, you may need to undergo orthodontic treatment again.
I lost my retainer and can't afford a new one
Traditional retainers from your orthodontist – the type you typically get after braces – are called Hawley retainers. These have an acrylic plate that goes along the roof of your mouth and a metal band that goes across your top teeth.
These can cost up to $300 at the orthodontist. Plus you need to go to the orthodontist again and get molds of your teeth taken so they can order you a new one. This will take multiple visits.
The good news is that with the invention of online orthodontic services, there's now an easier and more affordable way to order new retainers if you've lost yours. Companies like Sporting Smiles make it fast and convenient to purchase clear, Essix retainers online.
All you have to do is order an impression kit, make impressions of your teeth at home, and then send them in so that professionally-trained lab techs make your custom retainers. They will then send them back to you so you can start wearing them.
There are various price options for Sporting Smiles retainers:
- Essix Plus (Set of 2): $130
- Essix Plus (Single): $90
- Essix (Set of 2): $110
- Essix (Single): $85
While the cheapest option is to order a single retainer, you may want to go with a set of 2, just in case you think you might be in this situation again sometime in the future. While you're at it, you can use code SMILE10 to get 10% off your Sporting Smiles order.
Another option is to go with Sentinel retainers. They also offer clear Essix retainers that are custom-made and that you can order online. The main differences between Sentinel and Sporting Smile retainers is that the two brands offer different pack options, and Sentinel retainers have scalloped, or contoured edges, that go along the gumline, whereas Sporting Smiles retainers are cut straight across.
Neither is necessarily more effective than the other when it comes to retainers, it's just about personal preference. If you'd like to get retainers with a contoured edge, you may want to consider ordering Sentinel.
How long can I go without wearing my retainer?
If you lose your retainer for a few days, you won't encounter many problems. You may even be able to go without your retainer for a week or two. However, any longer and it will hurt to put it back in. If this happens, you should not wear it. Instead, you should order a new one.
Have a look at the table below for a preview of what can happen when you go without your retainer for too long.
1 year +
What to do if you lose your retainer
If you lose your retainer, you should get a new retainer. Ideally that means going to the orthodontist who supervised your treatment with braces. They will inspect your teeth to assess the damage and order new custom retainers for you.
Not everyone has time to get in to see the orthodontist, however, or maybe you've moved to a different state or country. If that's the case, you can order custom-made retainers online from a company like Sporting Smiles.
They make it easy to replace your lost retainer. All you have to do is order an impression kit to make molds of your teeth at home and then send the impressions in so your retainers can be made by professionally-trained lab technicians.
Sporting Smiles offers a variety of packages and types of retainers, so you can choose the one that's best for your lifestyle and budget. Use discount code SMILE10 to get 10% off your order.
You can also check out the video below by Dr. Greg Asatrian. Skip ahead to minute 4 to hear about him talking about lost retainers. He says it best: “Your retainer should either be in your face or in your case.”
What to do if you lost your Invisalign retainer
If you lose your Invisalign retainer, call the dentist or orthodontist with whom you did Invisalign treatment. They can help you order a new Vivera retainer as soon as possible.
Of course, you don't have to use an Invisalign retainer after Invisalign treatment if you lost your retainer. You can use any type of Essix retainer, including those made by Sporting Smiles, and it will probably be a lot cheaper.
Tips for not losing your retainer
Let's face it — retainers are small, transparent pieces of plastic — emphasis on transparent. That means that for the more free-spirited of us, they can be quite easy to lose track of. So here are some tips that you can use to make sure you don't lose your retainer (again).
Store them in their case
Chances are your retainer came with a case. Not only do retainer cases serve a hygienic purpose, but they also make your retainers easier to keep track of.
If you have a choice of colors, instead of opting for a neutral color, you may want to get a brightly colored case that's even easier to spot when you're frantically searching underneath those couch cushions.
These cases are made for mouth guards, but they will fit your retainer too, and not only are they made in fun colors, but they also have clips on them for added anti-loss security.
Or, if you're all about looking good (and that means your retainer too) customers rave about these QUIST retainer cases, which come in various colorful marble effect designs, are extremely durable, have hidden ventilation holes, and come with labels!
Be mindful after lunchtime
Whether at the office, in school, or at home, it's easy to get caught up in that rush to get lunch. Obviously, you have to take your retainer out to eat, and many people wrap their retainers in a napkin when they do so.
Unfortunately, a retainer wrapped in a napkin just so happens to look a lot like trash.
To avoid tossing your retainer in the garbage after lunch, create the habit of placing it in its case as soon as you take it out and placing the case in your purse or pocket.
Protect from pets
To your dog, a retainer looks a lot like their favorite chew toy, and to a cat, it may seem like some sort of deformed mouse. Either way, keep it out of the reach of your pets. That means watching out for countertops as well, because if it's sitting out on a countertop, your cat can and will knock it off.
Once your pet gets ahold of your retainer, they can easily damage it, and you shouldn't try to use it again if it gets damaged. So it might as well be as good as lost.
Unless you're highly organized, chances are you're going to lose your retainer sometime or another. If you do lose your retainer, don't worry, it happens to the best of us. However, it's critical that you get a replacement retainer ASAP.
The longer you go without wearing your retainer, the more likely it is that your teeth will become misaligned again, and you may even need to repeat orthodontic treatment.
If you lose your retainer, call your orthodontist so you can schedule an appointment to get a new one, or order custom-made retainers online from a trusted company like Sporting Smiles or Sentinel. Use promo code SMILE10 to get 10% off your order.
Also once you do have a new retainer, it's essential to keep it clean. We recommend using a specialized retainer cleaner like this one from cariPRO.
I lost my retainer. How fast will my teeth move?
Technically, your teeth can start moving as soon as you remove your retainer. But if you only lose your retainer for a few days or a week, it will most likely still fit.
After a few weeks, you will notice more major shifts, and after a few months, you may begin to think about needing to redo some of your orthodontic treatment.
What to do if you lost your retainer during quarantine?
If you lose your retainer during self-quarantine, you can call your orthodontist to ask them for advice. You can also order custom-made retainers from an online supplier.
Sporting Smiles lets you order custom retainers online from the comfort of your home.
I lost my retainer. What can I use instead?
Don't try to use anything as a retainer that isn't meant for that purpose. You should only use a retainer that has been custom-made to fit your teeth. Using anything else will likely cause damage.
European Journal of Orthodontics: Cost-effectiveness and patient satisfaction: Hawley and vacuum-formed retainers. Consulted 9th December 2021.
American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: Retainer wear and compliance in the first 2 years after active orthodontic treatment. Consulted 9th December 2021.