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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

Image: Selective focus on woman at dentist's office with frustrated look on her face

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. This may lead to a feeling that your teeth are shifting, and you will probably be right! In these cases, many patients logically think that simply getting back into the routine of consistent wear will shift their teeth back into place. But let's find out for certain: 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

If your teeth shifted after Invisalign, 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, and 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, because this means 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.

Tips to Help You Wear Your Retainer

If you are wearing a retainer after Invisalign, then you are no stranger to the importance of good oral hygiene and a replicable routine. Cleaning your retainers is priority one, as nobody wants to wear a stinky yellow retainer. There are a lot of products on the market that can help you in this endeavor; here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Retainer Brite: These effervescent tablets work great to clean clear aligners and retainers, as well as sports mouthguards, dentures and nightguards.
  2. Smilesaver™ Spray: This handy on-the-go retainer cleaner works in 60 seconds to clean and disinfect any oral device. It's perfect for your purse or travel bag!
  3. EverSmile®: Their line of products has something for everyone, and we particularly like their WhiteFoam which not only cleans retainers, but whitens your teeth as well!
  4. iSonic F3900 Ultrasonic Retainer Cleaner: If your retainer needs a serious cleaning, let this machine do the job. It's compact size is convenient for even the most cluttered of bathrooms.

Clean retainers are not only more comfortable to wear, they also last longer. And that matters, given that retainers can cost upwards of $150 and have a shelf life of about 6 months. With that in mind, it is worth spending a few dollars on a retainer case to keep them protected from the elements (and accidental disposal). If you travel often, check out the Capsule Dental Retainer Case, which has room for your retainers plus a travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste and comes with an aligner removal key included. Or if you just want a simple, durable retainer case, check out the fun designs from Quist Dental.

Text: Mints for Clear Aligners. Developed by an orthodontist to safely and effectively make the aligner experience more enjoyable. Image: a Gif demonstrating how Movemints are used to tighten Invisalign trays.

Now that you know retainers cannot move teeth back to their straight position, it's time you take action to stop the shifting and get back on track before its too late. 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.


This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you use them to purchase products, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate, we help fund this blog with the earnings we make from qualifying purchases. Thank you for supporting the Invisalign Tips & Tricks Blog!

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