My Retainer Broke: Do I Have an Orthodontic Emergency?

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My Retainer Broke: Do I Have an Orthodontic Emergency?

Retainers are the final piece of your orthodontic treatment, ensuring that your teeth remain in their new places. But, what happens if your retainer breaks? Is it an orthodontic emergency? Read on to find out.

While braces and aligners work to straighten your teeth, retainers help to maintain their alignment after your straightening devices have been removed.

Here at Lovely Smiles Orthodontics in Richmond, Texas, Nicole Thompson, DMD, and our team have helped many patients get the smile of their dreams. And we know that wearing your retainers is just as important as the straightening treatment itself.

We also know that retainers can break. So if that happens, what do you do? In this blog, Dr. Thompson explains how retainers can get broken and how you can tell if the damage might constitute an orthodontic emergency.

Understanding how retainers can get damaged

Your retainers aren’t indestructible, and they can break for various reasons, including accidental damage, normal wear and tear, and improper handling.

There are many types of retainers, but common issues with retainers include broken wires, cracked plastic, loose or missing components, or complete detachment. If a retainer breaks, this can compromise its ability to maintain your orthodontic results.

You can reduce your risk of breaking your retainers by handling them properly, storing them in your case when not wearing them, and never eating with them in your mouth.

Assessing the severity of the situation

If your retainer breaks, it's important to assess the situation to determine the severity. Consider the following factors:

Is it causing discomfort?

If a broken retainer causes discomfort — such as if a wire or sharp edge pokes your tongue or gums — this would constitute an emergency. If the retainer is removable, remove it from your mouth. If your retainer is fixed — which usually means it’s secured to the backside of your bottom teeth — try to cover any protruding wires with a piece of orthodontic wax and call us right away. 

Is the fit altered?

Examine how well your retainer fits after it has broken. If it no longer fits snugly or if there are significant gaps between the retainer and your teeth, this may constitute an emergency. Call us right away and we’ll discuss your situation and schedule an appointment.

Is it too damaged to wear?

If the damage prevents you from wearing your retainer until it’s fixed, this may constitute an orthodontic emergency. Again, give us a call, and we’ll discuss your situation and schedule an appointment.

Do your orthodontist's instructions address the situation?

Consult any specific instructions Dr. Thompson gives you regarding retainer breakage. Your specific instructions may vary depending on what type of retainers you have.

Immediate steps to take

If your retainer breaks and you suspect an orthodontic emergency, here are some immediate steps you should take:

Contact us

Reach out to our office as soon as possible to inform us about the situation. Our team can provide guidance on whether immediate action is necessary and schedule an appointment accordingly.

Consider temporary solutions

If you experience discomfort due to broken wires or sharp edges, you can use orthodontic wax to cover the affected area temporarily. This can help alleviate discomfort and prevent irritation to your mouth.

Preserve your retainer

If possible, gather and keep all the broken pieces of your retainer. We may be able to repair it.

Follow instructions

Follow any instructions given by our team regarding using and caring for your retainer until you get it repaired or replaced.

Is it an orthodontic emergency or not?

A broken retainer can be a cause for concern, but not all cases may qualify as orthodontic emergencies. Whether a broken retainer qualifies as an orthodontic emergency depends on the severity and impact on your orthodontic treatment.

If you break a retainer, make sure to call us right away. We’ll discuss your situation and schedule an appointment to fix your issue. To talk with us about a broken retainer, call 832-219-7687. For any other orthodontic issue, call our office or schedule an appointment online.