How Often Do You Need to Replace Your Dental Retainer?

Instructions for Hawley Retainer

We usually recommend replacing retainers every year, since the plastic stretches. If it’s cracked in half or your dog chewed on it, it needs to be replaced right away. If the shape changes or a crack makes it loose (or tight), your teeth will move in sync with the retainer, undoing all of your hard work with braces.

Dental retainers are called “retainers” because they hold your teeth in place, so they don’t move back to their pre-braces position. Wearing the retainer ensures your straight healthy smile will stay that way for a long time. Not wearing a retainer puts your smile at risk. It’s that simple!

Most orthodontic patients need to wear retainers throughout the day when braces first come off, but then when Dr. Gellerman thinks you’re ready, you can switch to wearing them only at night. Every case is different, so follow the instructions you’re given after debanding. If you forget, just call us – we’ll be happy to remind you.

Your retainer is in your mouth for long periods of time, so you need to take care of it. Keep it clean, rinse it every time you take it out and put it back in your mouth, and remember never, ever to put it in anything except your retainer case.

The retainer works by preventing your teeth from moving back to their original positions. That’s why it’s so important to wear your retainer as directed by Dr. Gellerman. If you get out of the habit of wearing your retainer, you may not notice your teeth moving until they’ve moved a LOT. It’s better to simply wear your retainer. Otherwise, you may end up needing braces – – again.

Retainers can get loose over time, so if you feel like your retainer isn’t fitting as snugly as it used to, come in so we can check to see if you need a new retainer.

How you clean your retainer will also impact its performance. If you wash it with too hot water or toss it in the dishwasher, it will lose its shape. Follow our instructions on how to clean and care for your retainer – – it’s strong, but it’s also fragile.

Let’s say you don’t wear your retainer for a while, and when you put it on, it hurts. The retainer isn’t broken, your teeth have moved. If this happens to you, call us. You may need to come in for a retainer check.

Retainer maintenance is part of your orthodontic treatment that only you can control. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it clean so there’s no build-up of plaque, tartar, or bacteria. Follow the instructions we give you for cleaning.  If there’s a lot of calcium deposit, soak them in a denture cleaning solution. If that doesn’t work, call us to schedule an appointment for a new retainer.
  • Keep your teeth well brushed and flossed also. The cleaner your teeth, the cleaner your retainer will be.
  • Follow the instructions for taking the retainer out of your mouth. Use one finger on both sides, gently sliding it out of your mouth with equal pressure on both sides.  If you twist the retainer by yanking it out on one side, you may end up with a broken retainer.
  • For the same reason, hold the retainer securely and apply pressure evenly when you clean it.
  • Use lukewarm temperature water. Too hot or too cold can cause it to crack.
  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and gentle, circular strokes.
  • Store your retainer in a clean retainer case.

If you have any questions about your retainer, just call our office at 631-427-8444.