If your permanent retainer is broken or the glue came off, don’t worry as this is something that can happen. But keep in mind that you need to reach out to your orthodontist without delay within days. Permanent retainers have an important job of keeping the teeth aligned after braces or Invisalign. So, you sure don’t want your beautiful smile and straight teeth to be affected by a broken retainer. This article will help you know what causes permanent retainer breaking, what you can do about it, and how is it repaired or replaced by your orthodontist.

Why do permanent retainers break?

A permanent retainer is a piece of metal wire that is bonded with composite resin to the back side of the teeth, in the bottom or top teeth. Permanent retainers can last up to 20 years with good care. However, they can also be prone to longtime wear and tear, getting debonded, or breakage.

The main risk factors that cause a broken permanent retainer include:

  • Biting into hard foods or chewing on ice or hard objects like pencils. It can cause the wire to bend, the dental composite to come off, or even break the retainer wire.
  • Repeated abrasions from chewing or brushing in which the composite becomes thin over time or eventually gets de-bonded.
  • The impacts of mouth and jaw injuries can potentially damage the permanent retainer. This can occur during a sports activity or a major accident.
  • The wire can wear down over time due to dental pressures, loss of strength, or wear and tear.
  • If you have a bite issue, the breakage of retainer wire or glue coming off is very likely. With bite problems, upper and lower teeth and jaws are not aligned and teeth can come into contact with the retainer repeatedly.

Is a broken permanent retainer normal?

Composite resin is a strong dental adhesive that is used to bond the permanent retainer wire on your teeth. It is the same material used as composite filling to treat cavities.

Dental composite is highly effective which keeps your permanent retainer firm in place on the tooth enamel. But composite is not supposed to last forever and there can be risks of debonding. Nor does the wire in your permanent retainer which may break and not resist the heavy pressures in the long run.

How is a permanent retainer fixed?

Your orthodontist will fix your broken permanent retainer depending on the type of damage.

If the dental composite has gotten off and the retainer wire is undamaged, it is just a simple process of bonding the wire back on the tooth enamel. For this, once the dental composite came debonded, the retainer is likely to break loose from the other side or is completely off. Your orthodontist will place the new dental composite resin and bond the retainer wire again usually in a few minutes.

If the retainer wire is broken, bent, or distorted, your orthodontist will determine whether it needs repair or a replacement. This can take more time or some dental visits.

The process involves the removal of the bonded retainer first. Your dental professional drills down the remaining cement and then cleans and polishes the surface of the tooth enamel. Next, if it is repairable, the retainer wire is fixed. If not, your dental professional might take an impression of your teeth to send it to the lab where your new permanent retainer is made.

How much does it cost to fix a broken permanent retainer?

On average, a permanent retainer can cost anywhere from $150 to $500 to repair or replace. Factors like the extent of the damage, the orthodontist’s pricing, and whether or not the retainer can be salvaged or should be made from the beginning can all affect the cost of fixing your permanent retainer once it breaks or comes loose.

Will my teeth shift if my permanent retainer comes off?

The purpose of the retainers whether removable or permanent is to hold teeth in their new straight position and keep them aligned after your braces or Invisalign. Without retainers, teeth have a tendency to shift back to the previous position. So, it is recommended that you see your orthodontist right away when you see something wrong with them.

If you had orthodontics to correct gaps in your front teeth, it is urgent to visit your orthodontist ASAP. There is a higher risk for the gaps or diastema to come back again when your front teeth are not held continuously. Therefore, not every situation is the same. It may not be a matter of days. But you can experience some teeth shifting if you don’t show up for repair or replacement of your broken permanent retainer after weeks.

One of the ways to prevent the risk of teeth shifting if your permanent retainer broke is to use a removable retainer. You may be wearing one over your top teeth depending on your orthodontics treatment. Or, it is possible that your orthodontist created one for you as a backup permanent retainer.

If you have a removable retainer and you notice a broken permanent retainer, wearing your removable retainer every night is a nice temporary solution until you come in to the orthodontist to have your broken permanent retainer fixed.

What can I do at home?

If you notice that your retainer might be damaged, the wire is detached or part of the glue has come off, the first thing you should do is to call your orthodontist or dentist and schedule a visit.

In the meantime, there are some ways you can try to decrease any risks to your teeth and mouth:

  • Get an over-the-counter mouthguard or a clear removable retainer to wear at night over the retainer. They can protect your retainer during sleep and can help prevent any unwanted dental movements at least until you see your orthodontist.
  • Wear your removable retainer every night if you are already using one along with your permanent retainer. This maintains the straight position for your teeth and can be the best option temporarily.
  • Avoid DIY fixing or messing with the retainer. Don’t pull the wire completely off from your teeth and avoid trying to glue back the wire yourself.
  • Avoid eating hard, chewy, or sticky foods. These foods can get in between the retainer wire and your teeth and cause it to break or bend more.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water if you feel pain in your mouth. Swishing warm salt water can help reduce pain and heal sore areas caused by the protruding wire in your mouth.
  • Consider using an antibacterial mouthwash along with your brushing. A mouthwash helps eliminate bacterial activity, clean your teeth, and prevent plaque accumulation, especially in the areas where the retainer was previously attached.

Frequently asked questions

Can I fix a broken permanent retainer myself?

No, you shouldn’t ever try to fix your broken retainer yourself. You will damage not only the retainer even more, but also you can cause irreversible damage to your smile. Retainers, both permanent and removable, are custom-made dental appliances made to hold your teeth in place.

Is a broken permanent retainer an emergency?

If your permanent retainer breaks, call your orthodontist and schedule a visit for repair or replacing it. Most of the time, it is not an emergency situation, but it is strongly advised you reach out to your orthodontist within the following days and never wait for weeks or months.

What is the best way to prevent a broken permanent retainer?

Avoid biting hard into foods or chewing something that is harsh near the retainer. Step up for better oral hygiene. Additionally, Schedule regular checkups with your orthodontist at least in the first 2 years which the risk of damage to your permanent retainer is high.

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