A retainer to keep my crooked teeth crooked--is it worth it?
June 24, 2016 11:48 AM   Subscribe

In the last year or two my previously non-crooked teeth have become noticeably crooked and crowded. I'm worried they will only continue to get more out of alignment. I asked my dentist for some options and she suggested a retainer to wear at night to keep them from shifting further. Does it make sense to do this without having them straightened first?

First I had an ill-fitting crown that meant I basically only chewed on one side of my mouth for a long time, and that seemed to throw things off. Then my bottom four front teeth got crowded, which is apparently common at my age. One of the bottom front two teeth is now about a millimeter or two behind its brethren. The crowdedness of the the bottom teeth plus the fact that I clench my teeth when nervous and grind them in my sleep means the top front teeth are starting to be slightly perceptibly off as well.

I have periodontal disease and significant gum recession, and I'm worried about that. It seems to be progressing at about the same rate as the rest of my mouth falling to pieces over the last couple of years. The recession is particularly noticeable around those four crowded bottom front teeth. I try to brush up and down and very, very gently. I'm worried that the misalignment of the teeth is making them harder to clean and thus more prone to gum disease.

Does it make sense to try to freeze my mouth in its current state by wearing a retainer on the top and bottom teeth at night? I'm hoping to keep the crowding and misalignment from getting completely out of hand. But I'm also worried about aggravating my gum disease. Whether retainers will help or hurt with that, I don't know.

I thought about trying Invisalign or whatever, but I'm trying to save my dental funds for any gum graft surgery that might be in my future. Of course my crappy dental insurance covers none of this. Would having them straightened again before getting retainers be worth the cost?

The dentist, unfortunately, seems very rushed and impatient and I haven't gotten a good answer from her on any of these questions. I've been dentist hopping and because of other stuff going on haven't had the time or energy to visit others.

The retainers themselves would cost about $400.

I'm not really worried about the cosmetic aspect of any of this. I just want to keep my teeth for as long as possible.

Thank you!
posted by whistle pig to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
I do this! I had braces about 22 years ago and wore retainers through high school and college, then stopped. My teeth started shifting significantly in my late 20s, and while they don't bother anyone but me, I was getting annoyed. My orthodontist made me retainers for the top and bottom that I wear at night more nights than not, and it has stopped the shifting and slightly corrected it. I don't have a perfect smile, but it's passable and that's what matters to me.
posted by notjustthefish at 12:01 PM on June 24, 2016

You should ask your periodontist if a retainer will aggravate your gum disease. I wouldn't get a retainer, unless you're satisfied / can live with the state your teeth are in right now. If they're too crooked, get them straightened and then do a retainer.
posted by serenity_now at 12:20 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your teeth will always keep moving... so best to stabilize them with a retainer (assuming they stabilize into a good place.)
posted by Mushroom12345 at 1:13 PM on June 24, 2016

I wear a retainer on bottom for this exact reason- noticed my teeth were shifting. I had braces when I was a kid but I guess over time the teeth decided to move again. I also have a night guard for the top. I'm ok with it because my smile looks fine enough so it wasn't worth it to me to straighten them back out. It's a personal choice on that front. Not sure how the gum recesson plays in though. I'd try to get a second opinion there.
posted by FireFountain at 1:16 PM on June 24, 2016

From the description you've given, i'd say that there are several things going on simultaneously. First, as others have stated, your teeth will continue to move throughout your life, mostly toward the center (we call this mesial drift); so small rotations and overlaps will become more pronounced as you age, sometimes to the point where teeth overlap.
Second, you have periodontal disease, which means you might have less bone around your teeth, making them more susceptible to movement, tilting, mobility (wiggling).
Stabilization of your teeth, which we call splinting, can be helpful to prolong the life of wiggly teeth and will fix them in their current position, halting the drift.
Ortho is not indicated in patients with active perio disease, so the periodontal disease will have to be arrested prior to any consideration of braces or invisalign.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:17 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Got braces in my fifties (teeth were perfect until a few years before that), wear retainers religiously, and they work. But you have to have your teeth in really good shape.
posted by Peach at 7:42 PM on June 24, 2016

Thanks, everyone.
posted by whistle pig at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2016

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