Lose or Break an Aligner? What to Do Next

Lose or Break an Aligner? What to Do Next
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Lose or Break an Aligner? What to Do NextClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What to Do If Your Aligner Breaks
  3. What to Do If You Lose It
  4. What Not to Do
  5. Prevention
  6. Get a New Aligner Quickly
  7. References

One of the best rules about wearing aligners is always hang on to your previous set of aligners.

If you lose or break the aligners for your teeth, you can insert an old tray to help keep your teeth from shifting too much while you get your new pair.

Regardless, set an appointment with your orthodontist immediately. Leverage your dentist’s relationship with your orthodontist, if there is one, to help speed things along.

Introduction

Have you ever lost or broken your aligners and worried that your treatment would lag and slow all the progress you had made on your smile? Sometimes it happens that your aligners break due to mishandling.

If you break or lose an aligner tray, you should contact your orthodontist immediately to schedule an appointment to have them replaced.
Use the next set of the aligner series as you wait for the appointment. If they don’t fit, use the previous series or backup set to ensure your teeth do not go back to the position they were before.

What to Do When You Break an Invisible Aligner?

When you first break an invisible aligner, you may worry that the accident will set your treatment back. Temporarily, that is true. How temporary, though, depends on how fast you act and how quickly you get back to see your orthodontists.

Here are the initial steps to take:

1. Contact Your Dentist

Call your dentist and notify the office that your aligners broke. If you are only a few days into the current trays, your dentist may recommend that you continue with a previous set.

If it is less than a week since you started your new set, then using the older ones while waiting for a new set would be the ideal case. While you have your dentist’s office on the phone, ask if someone there can help you gain immediate/emergency access to your orthodontist. This can speed things along for you, especially if your dentist and your orthodontist have a professional referral relationship — or even if your orthodontist is just someone your dentist suggested as an option when you were considering getting aligners.

2. Always Have a Backup Set

Do not discard the previous aligner set after you get your hands on your newest set. Just like your previous pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses, these just-outdated sets serve as your backup if you lose or break the current set.

3. Use the Next Aligner Set

If the previous set doesn’t fit, your next best option would be to use the next set in the series. That is especially true if you had less than three days before the scheduled switch to the next set.

4. Continue Using the Broken Aligner Set

If the aligner has only a tiny crack, continue wearing it. However, if it is split and you can bend it by applying pressure, discontinue its use. Don’t use glue to fix a split or cracked aligner. There are too many toxic chemicals in glues for them to go in your mouth. A split aligner may also have jagged edges that will damage your gums.

5. Visit Your Orthodontist

If you have no good options — you can’t use an earlier set of aligners trays, your newly broken tray is too damaged and your new set of trays haven’t arrived yet — you may need to be insistent about having your orthodontist take a look. If the orthodontist’s calendar is too full for your liking, ask the office scheduler if the doctor takes walk-ins or has a regular slot for emergency visits. Often the scheduling will empathize with your situation and find a way to squeeze in an appointment for you.

6. Ask About a Repair

If you can’t get a quick appointment with your orthodontist, visit the office anyway and take your broken aligners with you. Remind them of your situation and then ask if someone can take a look at your broken tray to evaluate if there is a quick fix that they can turn around.

What to Do If You Lose an Invisible Aligner?

  • When you realize that you have misplaced your aligners, take time to search for them carefully. The fact that they are clear makes it challenging to find, but you may find them after retracing your steps.
  • Contact your orthodontist’s office immediately. Your doctor will determine if you can move onto the next set or you need to reorder the set that you lost.
  • Many orthodontists advise that you keep your past aligners trays. That way, you can wear the previous set if you lose your current set as you wait for a new set.

What Not to Do

It is tempting not to report the loss or break and proceed to the next aligner tray without informing your orthodontist, considering they will charge you for a replacement. However, this is not the best move. The aligner tray design moves your teeth systematically over time, and the movement is a complicated, time-consuming (and expensive!) process.

Moving to the next tray set while your teeth haven’t moved into position may work against your treatment plan. If you had only worn the previous aligners for a short time, the new aligners might not fit properly.

Report your lost or broken aligners as soon as possible to avoid delaying your treatment further.

Don’t assume that you can make any repairs. Maybe you can. But it’s also likely that you accidentally make some adjustment to the aligners that does not help your teeth in the long run. Don’t take the chance if the fix seems anything but obvious and easy.

How to Prevent Losing or Breaking an Aligner 

To prevent the loss or breakage of aligners, keep the following in mind:

  • Always keep your aligners in a case. Every time you remove them to eat or brush your teeth, remember to store them in a case. If you fold them in a napkin, you may likely end up throwing them in the trash or forgetting about them.
  • Wear them all the time when you’re out of your home. It would be practically impossible to lose the aligners when you have them in your mouth.
  • When removing your aligners, please do not remove them from one position only, as they might break at the weakest point.
  • Store them properly. At home, away from the reach of children or pets that might pick and misplace them.
  • Brush your teeth after every meal. Clean the aligners regularly to avoid staining them.

Why Getting a New Aligner Quickly Is Important

Securing a new aligner quickly after you lose it or damage it important for the moving process of your teeth. The last thing you want is to have your teeth shift back to their original position and set you back on your treatment.

If you lost or broke your aligners, this is not the end of your treatment plan. Talk to your orthodontist to replace the trays and keep up with your treatment regimen.

References

Biomechanics of Clear Aligners: Hidden Truths & First Principles. (February 2022). Journal of the World Federation of Orthodontists.

Clear aligners in orthodontic treatment. (March 2017). Australian Dental Journal.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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