Swords Orthodontics
17 Main St, Swords, Co Dublin, Ireland

Why do dogs eat orthodontic retainers?


The brand new retainer on the right can be turned into the chewed up retainer on the left in about 2 seconds flat

- just add friendly dog.


Last week at Swords Orthodontics we had a patient in from Rush who had lost a retainer due to “dog intervention”. Perhaps it should read "Ruff" instead of Rush, but anyway, I guess we see this happen every few months.To make matters a bit worse, it had happened 3 weeks ago, and he hadn’t told us at the time, and by the time he did attend some of his teeth had moved a little. If he’d let us know the day after the accident, we could probably have made him a new retainer within 24 hours, and the teeth wouldn’t have moved.

Now, when we finish active orthodontics for a patient, their teeth are nice and straight. It’s time to take the braces off and fit retainers.

There are two basic places that retainers should be:

  1. In the mouth
  2. In a retainer case
  3. there is no 3! See 1 and 2 above

We give all our patients a retainer case and instructions, and we’ll follow up all our patients for at least a year.

If a patient doesn’t keep the retainers safely as advised then there are basically four things that are likely to happen:

  1. The retainers get lost
  2. The retainers get broken
  3. The retainers get eaten by a dog
  4. Any combination of the above outcomes

Sometimes it’s not even the patient’s dog! Why do dogs eat retainers? I don’t actually know the answer, but it’s probably connected to dogs’ sense of smell being very sensitive and the retainer makes them curious. The unfortunate thing is that a dog can chew a retainer in seconds.

When someone comes to us with teeth that have moved due to not wearing a retainer we have three choices, none of which are good in terms of cost or results.

  1. Do nothing – the teeth will probably get worse
  2. Make new retainers – the teeth won’t get any worse, but they won’t get straight again and there’ll probably be the cost of the new retainers
  3. Straighten the teeth again, then make new retainers – this would get things back to where they were, and keep them that way, but there would be the cost of the repeat treatment and the new retainers

Swords Orthodontics is very keen on the idea that prevention is better than cure, so the basic advice we have for all our patients is that they should look after their retainers and wear them as advised from the start.

And if you do lose or break your retainer, get in touch with your orthodontist right away and then you have the best range of options for keeping your finished results!

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