Retainer Doesn’t Fit After Fillings? Here’s What to Do

Dealing with a retainer that doesn’t fit after a dental filling can be a frustrating situation. You understand the importance of wearing your retainer to keep your teeth in place after orthodontic treatment, but now you’re faced with a new challenge. This article aims to help guide you through some possible solutions and steps to take when your retainer no longer fits as it should.

First, don’t panic. There are ways to remedy the situation, whether your teeth have shifted slightly or a filling has changed the shape of your tooth. Knowing that you’re not alone and that this is a common issue can provide some reassurance. Now let’s dive into the practical advice!

Fillings and Their Impact on Retainers

A patient of mine once had her front tooth filling replaced at another dentist’s office. After the procedure, she noticed that her retainer no longer fit properly. This is a common issue that patients often don’t consider when getting dental work done while having retainers at night.

One important factor to remember is that dental fillings can impact the fit of your retainers. This is particularly relevant when it comes to getting front fillings that recreate the corner of the front teeth, impacting their length, shape, and curve. A retainer is designed to fit the specific contour and shape of your teeth, so any alterations to those features can lead to a poor fit and even discomfort.

Essix retainers, for instance, are known for their snug fit. If your teeth experience even a slight change due to a dental procedure, it may lead to these retainers fitting poorly. Hawley retainers can also be impacted by changes to the teeth resulting from fillings, but there are ways to make them fit again.

As you continue with your orthodontic and dental treatments, it’s important to take the fit of your retainers into account when considering any dental work involving fillings. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Always take your retainer with you to the dentist when getting fillings; they can adjust the filling to ensure a proper fit with the retainer.
  • If you are unsure about whether a dental procedure might impact your retainers, consult both your orthodontist and dentist. They can address your concerns and ensure your retainers continue to work correctly.
  • Regularly monitor the fit and comfort of your retainers. If you notice any changes or discomfort, reach out to your dentist or orthodontist for advice. They can craft or order a new retainer or even suggest alternative treatments like clear aligners if your teeth have moved significantly.

Other Dental Work and Retainers

When you undergo dental work, such as getting crowns, inlays, tooth bonding, or veneers, it is essential to consider how these changes might affect your retainer. All of these dental procedures alter the shape or position of your teeth, which could impact the fit of your retainer.

Dental Crowns: Dental crowns are caps that cover a damaged tooth to restore its shape and function. The change in your tooth’s shape may prevent your retainer from fitting properly.

Inlays: Inlays are custom-made ceramic fillings that fit into the grooves of a damaged tooth. Since they precisely fill the cavity, they can alter the tooth’s shape and consequently affect your retainer’s fit.

Tooth Bonding: Tooth bonding is a procedure to repair chipped or stained teeth using a tooth-colored resin. Although it may seem subtle, bonding can change your tooth’s contour, which can lead to an ill-fitting retainer.

Veneers: Veneers are thin, custom-made shells that cover the front surface of a tooth to improve its appearance. They can change your teeth’s size, shape, or alignment, which might affect your retainer’s fit.

Before undertaking any dental work, please inform your dentist that you have a retainer. They can guide you on the potential consequences of the procedure on your retainer and the necessary steps that follow. In most cases, you will need to have a new retainer made to accommodate the changes in your teeth’s structure.

If you plan to get extensive dental work done, you might need to get an Essix retainer after each stage, so that your teeth won’t move in the process.

It is crucial not to force your old retainer onto your teeth after dental work as this might damage the new additions. For example, fillings or bonding could crack, and veneers and crowns could come off.

How to Address a Misfit Retainer

You got so used to wearing a retainer that you completely forgot to mention it to your dentist, and now your retainer doesn’t fit. What should you do next? No worries, all dentists and orthodontists offer retainers, and you can even get them online!

Retainers that don’t fit properly aren’t always obvious, until teeth start shifting. You may notice that your Hawley retainer doesn’t seat all the way on the roof of your mouth, or that you aren’t able to push your Essix retainer all the way in, and it looks like this:

Visit Your Dentist

If your retainer doesn’t fit correctly after getting fillings, the first step to take is to contact your dentist or orthodontist. They will be well-equipped to examine your teeth and the retainer, ensuring that the filling hasn’t disrupted the fit.

It’s always a good idea to take your retainer with you when you have dental procedures, as your dentist can check the fit and modify the filling if needed before leaving the office.

Modifying the filling ever so slightly can often make a huge difference and get your retainer fitting normally.

Adjusting the Retainer

For those with Hawley retainers (the ones with metal wires), adjustments can often be made to accommodate new fillings. Your orthodontist or dentist can adjust the metal components, ensuring your retainer fits snugly and securely around your teeth. Remember, you should not try to adjust your Hawley retainer at home, as you may cause damage or further misalignments.

Here are some pointers for taking care of your Hawley retainer:

  • Store it in its case when not in use
  • Clean it daily with a toothbrush and water
  • Avoid exposing it to heat, as it can warp the material

Replacing the Retainer

In cases where you have an Essix retainer (the clear plastic one), adjustments are not possible. If the fit is significantly disrupted by a filling, you may need to replace the retainer. Your dentist or orthodontist can help take new impressions of your teeth and order a replacement retainer that fits your updated dental structure.

To prolong the life of your Essix retainer, follow these tips:

  • Store it in its provided case when not in use
  • Clean using a toothbrush and water, or a retainer cleaner
  • Never use hot water or harsh chemicals to clean it

How to prevent shifting

Most patients that have issues with ill-fitting retainers are worried their teeth will shift. Anticipating that it may take a few days to get a new retainer may ease your mind. Teeth won’t shift much in just a few days, and they’ll certainly move back to their spots once your new retainer is in.

In the meantime, let’s focus on prevention and how you can maintain the results of your orthodontic treatment, even while getting dental work done:

Take your retainer with you

To prevent your retainer from not fitting after dental work, it’s essential to take your retainer with you when you visit your dentist. That way, after any dental procedure, such as fillings or crowns, the dentist can check the fit of your retainer and make any necessary adjustments. This will help maintain the perfect fit and avoid any potential issues.

Your dentist will appreciate the heads up and you will be able to plan and budget for all the procedures you need, including a new retainer.

Regular dental checkups

Another strategy to prevent retainer issues is to stay on top of your regular dental checkups. This not only helps you maintain your overall oral health but also allows you to catch and address potential dental problems early. Early detection and intervention could help prevent the need for extensive dental work that could impact the fit of your retainer.

Your dentist can also check the fit of your retainer during these visits, making any necessary adjustments and keeping you informed on its condition.


Ideally, patients should get most of their dental work taken care of before getting braces, but this can be unrealistic. Adults, especially, often need procedures like dental implants, crowns, veneers, etc, which all get done after braces. This leads to the need for several retainers until the restorative treatment is complete.

You will most likely need at least one filling done throughout your lifetime, so it’s unrealistic to believe your old retainer will fit forever. This is why you need to be informed, and in turn, let your dentist know about your past orthodontic treatment.

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