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How to Tighten Retainer

By December 28, 2022 February 4th, 2023 No Comments
retainer on the teeth model

When the retainer becomes loose, of course, it is uncomfortable for you. It makes it difficult to talk and pronounce words. If you do not take action soon, your teeth will be shifted to their previous position.

In order to prevent this from happening, let us discuss in detail how to tighten the retainer.

What is a Retainer?

How do I know if my Retainer Doesn’t Fit?

If you feel that your retainer doesn’t fit, then you are most likely right. The best way to figure out if it fits is to remove your retainer and look at it.

If the retainer has changed shape since you first got it, then there’s a good chance that it doesn’t fit correctly. Don’t worry, though; this is what the retainers are for. It’s always better to have a tight retainer than one that’s too loose.

closeup of the retainer in a person's mouth

Wear it all the Time to Avoid Relapse

If you don’t wear your retainer when you’re supposed to, there’s a good chance that your teeth will shift back to their original position. This is called “relapse.” Once this happens, it will be difficult to fit your original retainer back into your mouth. You’ll need to get a new one from your orthodontist.

What to Do If Your Retainer Doesn't Fit Anymore

If you’re wondering how to tighten a retainer, you’ve probably discovered that your retainer is no longer fitting and is causing discomfort.

Tightening your retainer may be possible depending on how well the appliance has held up. If your retainer is new, it’s likely that it still fits and only needs to be adjusted. However, if your retainer is several years old, then it’s probably time for a new one.

How to Tighten a Retainer: What You'll Need?

Before you can figure out how to tighten a retainer, you need to know what kind of retainer you have and whether it’s adjustable or not. Some retainers are heat-activated and can be tightened through a special process, while others are screwed in place.

Adjust the Retainer Yourself

Adjust the wire by bending it back into shape. Sometimes just adjusting the wire will give you a tighter fit, but don’t bend it too far, or you risk breaking it completely.

Once again, be careful not to pinch yourself while adjusting the wire. If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, stop by your orthodontist’s office, and they’ll help you make adjustments.

Schedule an Appointment with Your Dentist

You can see the dentist who made the retainers for you. The dentist can instruct you on all dental procedures needed on how to tighten the retainer at home by yourself.

The dentist will also help you in adjusting the retainer correctly and comfortably in your mouth, as well as give good advice on how long you should wear it and what you should do while wearing it or not wearing it.

Get a Completely New Retainer

If none of these options work and your current retainer is still too loose, talk to your orthodontist about getting a new one. This will likely mean paying for another round of treatment, but it may be worth it to have something that’s comfortable and keeps your teeth in their proper positions.

What Types of Retainers May Need to be Repositioned or Reshaped?

Essix Retainers - Clear Plastic Retainers

Essix retainers are removable, clear plastic retainers that fit over the entire teeth. Essix retainers are made from thin sheets of plastic and can look similar to Invisalign trays. We do not recommend you buy these online, as they will not fit properly unless they are custom-designed.

Patients who want a retainer that is nearly invisible may choose an Essix retainer. The Essix retainer is designed to fit over the entire outside surface of the teeth like a mouthguard without covering the palate (roof) of the mouth. Some people find this more comfortable than other types of retainers.

The Essix retainer can also be used to correct minor tooth movements when worn full-time.

Hawley Retainer- Removable Retainers

The Hawley is a removable retainer made out of metal wire and acrylic. It can be used to correct minor tooth movements or simply to maintain the position of the teeth.

They are usually very noticeable when worn; however, they are one of the longest-lasting types of retainers. They can be adjusted if necessary.

Bonded Retainers - Fixed Retainer

This is a fixed retainer. Bonded retainers consist of a thin metal wire which is cemented to the backside of your front teeth with dental bonding material. These retainers are virtually invisible from the front view, but they do take some getting used to as there will be a metal wire on the backside of your teeth that you may feel while you eat or speak.

two types of retainers and the teeth model in the middle

Steps Required to Tighten Most Retainers

If you wear a retainer to keep your teeth from shifting, you may notice that it becomes loose over time. This is normal, but when it starts to feel looser, you’ll want to tighten it. Otherwise, your teeth may shift again, which will require you to wear the retainer for longer than necessary.

Adjusting the retainer is easy and can be done by following the below steps:

Step 1

Place your retainer in warm water until it softens slightly. This will make the retainer more malleable and easier to adjust.

Step 2

Bend the wire of your retainer up using a pair of needle-nose pliers, just slightly. Do not bend the wires too much at once, or you may damage the retainer. Only bend the wire up about a millimeter at a time until you have achieved the desired tightness in the retainer’s fit. You can always bend the wire up more, so start small and work from there.

Step 3

Place the retainer back in your mouth once you have adjusted it sufficiently to determine if it is a comfortable fit for you. If not, repeat steps 1 through 3 until you have achieved the desired tightness level of your retainer.

Can I Tighten The Retainer Myself?

Yes, you can tighten a removable retainer yourself. Removable retainers, like Hawley retainers, are very easy to adjust. You can use your fingers to tighten the retainer wire. As for fixed retainers (like bonded lingual retainers), you must consult your dentist to make the necessary adjustments.

If your dentist gave you instructions, then follow them. Otherwise, use the following procedure to tighten a Hawley retainer.

The first step is to take the retainer out and inspect it to make sure none of the wires are broken and that there are no loose pieces. You will also want to look for any cracks or other damage in the plastic. If you do see any damage, you should contact your dentist’s office for repairs or a replacement retainer. If there is no damage, tighten the wire. 

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