Can Retainers Move Teeth Back to their Straight Position?

If you neglect to wear your Invisalign retainer, your teeth will begin to shift almost immediately. This leads to many patients asking the question, can retainers move teeth back to their straight position?  

If you haven't been as diligent with your post-treatment plans, it may be tempting to use an old retainer to move your teeth back into place. But before you try this method, there are some things you need to understand about how retainers work, and the teeth straightening process in general.

Why Do Teeth Shift After Corrective Dentistry?

Your teeth are actually the most vulnerable to shifting right after straightening if you aren’t wearing a retainer

woman against white background frustrated angry print shirt nose ringWhen your teeth shift, it can be incredibly frustrating. But, there are solutions!

When you decide to pursue Invisalign, you are moving your teeth at small increments until you achieve your desired smile. The corrective measures will align your teeth and jaw, but once they are removed, your bones have not yet solidified in their current position. Because of this, your teeth are at the most risk of shifting just after you have finished realigning them. If you do not use a retainer at all, your teeth will begin to shift immediately. Over time as you neglect to wear your retainer, you will start to notice your retainer is not fitting properly. When you notice your teeth shifting, you may be tempted to use your old retainer to shift your teeth back into place. Next, we’ll find out, “Can retainers move teeth back to their desired position?”


My Teeth Have Shifted, Can A Retainer Move My Teeth Back?

Your retainer is meant to keep your teeth in place, not to shift your teeth back to their straightened position

confused woman at laptop working from home decision makingDo your research before trying to use your old retainer to correct your teeth.

If your teeth have shifted recently, it is definitely tempting to use an old retainer to work your teeth back into place. So can retainers move teeth back to their former position? The answer is no, using an old retainer to correct shifted teeth is not a good idea. Retainers are not designed to shift your teeth, rather they are meant to hold them in place. 

A retainer will not exert the necessary force on your teeth and jaw that is needed for correct alignment, and in some cases can even harm your teeth. If it has been a long time since you have last worn your retainer, first try your retainer on to see if your teeth have shifted too much for comfortable wear. You will know your teeth have shifted if your retainer causes tooth pain as it no longer fits properly.

If retainers can’t move my teeth back, what are some of my options?

If your teeth have already shifted, it is best to get yourself back on track as soon as possible. While your retainer can’t move teeth back to their straightened position, there are steps you can take to correct shifting teeth. The first step is to get a new retainer so your teeth will not continue to shift. This retainer will not correct your teeth, it will merely keep them from moving even more. 

Make an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist so they can take new impressions of your teeth and jaw to make a new retainer. If your teeth have regressed a lot, you may need to pursue another round of Invisalign to correct your teeth

Why is Retainer Compliance after Invisalign So Important?

You’ve done the hard work, don’t let your newly straightened teeth slip out of place

You have put in the hours for a great smile, now all you have to do is wear your retainer as recommended.

If you are using Invisalign for a straightened smile, you are familiar with the strict regimen of wearing your aligners for 22+ hours a day. Invisalign, while less invasive and more comfortable than braces, is still a huge commitment. Because you have committed to wearing the aligners as prescribed, why wouldn’t you have the same attitude with your retainer? 

Many neglect their retainer as something that is optional after Invisalign. This is not true, retainers are required after Invisalign to guarantee lasting straight teeth. If your teeth have shifted, you might consider using your retainer as a corrective method just like Invisalign. As we discussed before, retainers can’t move teeth back into place. Your old retainer will not work the same way as Invisalign as they are designed to keep teeth in place, not to move them.


Now that we’ve answered the question, “Can retainers move teeth back to their straight position?”, it's time to consider solutions. If your teeth have shifted due to infrequent retainer use, there is still time to get back on track. The sooner you begin to address the problems associated with shifting, the less time you will spend on a second round of straightening. 

If you are interested in beginning Invisalign again, you may want to learn about Movemints™ and how our refreshing and edible mints help your aligners stay in the right place. If you are ready to take care of your shifting teeth, Movemints™ is ready to help you on your journey to a straighter smile.

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