I am proud to say that I have all my own teeth at the age of 65. While that may not sound unusual to some people, everyone in my family who is my age or older wears dentures. I always tell people that that flossing is the key to good dental health. I have arthritis in my hands, but I don't let it keep me from flossing every day. My trick is to use those little "flossers" you can buy at the drug store. They have plastic handles floss stretched out on top of the handle. These make flossing easier on days when my arthritis is acting up. I started this blog to let other people know that they can keep their teeth healthy into old age when they take care of them. If you have hand pain, find ways to make flossing easier, like I did.
After you get your braces off, you'll have to wear a retainer for an extended period of time. This time period can vary, but it's often at least a year. However, many people forget to put the retainer in and go about their day without it — often for several days. This can lead to more tooth movement that can undo some of the work that the braces did. If you have forgotten to wear your retainer for a long time, you'll notice that your retainer might no longer fit well. If the change is substantial enough, you may have to have some of the work redone.
If the retainer is somewhat tight but otherwise fits, you might not have to do anything other than keep wearing it so that it nudges your teeth back into line. This is the best-case scenario (other than not having your teeth move at all). It can take a few days to a couple of weeks, but your teeth should readjust soon. After that, you'll need to be very careful about wearing your retainer, and you will need to talk to an orthodontist, like those at Eberting Orthodontics, about how much longer you should wear it to prevent the same problem from happening again.
If the retainer doesn't really fit that well — it's beyond tight, you can't push the plate against your palate, or it starts irritating areas it didn't irritate before — you may need to have the retainer remade or have the wires adjusted a few times to guide your teeth back into place. Rarely, you can use retainers (called Hawley retainers) with adjusted wires to help your teeth move. But the changes in tooth position have to be relatively small, and you should not assume this is an option for you.
You may have the opportunity to use clear aligners to fix the damage. You'd need only a few trays in all likelihood, but they would still be costly. You can see why wearing your retainer as instructed is such a big deal.
Not Fitting at All
If you can't put your retainer in at all, your teeth have moved too far out of position to make the retainer usable at all. In this case, you'd need to have another course of some sort of tooth-straightening appliance, be those aligners or a second round of actual braces. If the change hasn't affected your bite, you could have another retainer made to keep your teeth where they are, but if your bite has changed or if your teeth have become visibly crooked again, you'll need to move them back into place with orthodontic appliances.
It's much easier to just keep wearing your retainer. If you have trouble remembering to put it in after you brush your teeth, or if you're really resistant to wearing it, talk to your orthodontist about coping mechanisms and ways to remember to grab the retainer and put it in before you leave for the day.