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What’s the best way to clean my retainer?

For removable retainers, take them out and brush gently using a soft-bristled toothbrush and water. You can also soak them in a retainer-cleaning solution for a deep clean. 

For fixed retainers, brush around the wire and use floss or an interdental brush to clean between the teeth. Regular dental check-ups will also help in maintaining the hygiene of fixed retainers.

Are there different retainer options?

Yes, there are two general kinds of retainers: removable (put in and removed by the patient) and fixed (placed and removed by the orthodontist). Both types of retainers hold teeth in their new positions after “active” orthodontic treatment is completed. This allows newly formed bone to mature around the teeth.

Two common removable retainers:

  • Wire retainers are made of wire and a plastic-like material. The part of the retainer that covers the roof of the mouth or goes behind the lower front teeth is plastic and wires help hold the teeth in place.
  • Clear retainers are transparent trays made of a plastic-like material that are exact replicas of the teeth.
  • A fixed retainer consists of a thin, custom-fitted wire that is bonded to the tongue-side of upper or lower teeth.

The orthodontist will teach you how to insert, remove and take care of a removable retainer. A fixed retainer consists of a thin, custom-fitted wire that is bonded to the tongue-side of upper or lower teeth. If the wire becomes loose on a tooth, it is important to notify your orthodontist immediately.

How much do replacement retainers cost?

The fee for replacement retainers is determined by your orthodontist.

How long do retainers last?

With proper care, retainers can last many years. However, remember that retainers are similar to any other device and likely will need to be replaced at some point. Proper care of retainers will extend the lifetime of the retainer. “Proper care” consists of:

  • Storing removable retainers in their cases when the retainers are not in the mouth.
  • Keeping retainers away from heat sources, including the inside of hot cars.
  • Keeping retainers away from pets.
  • Don’t put your retainers in your pocket without the case.
  • If your retainer appears to have lost its shape, or if it no longer fits when you attempt to place it on your teeth, inform your orthodontist.

How long will I need to wear a retainer?

Typically, a retainer is necessary for a lifetime, though the frequency of wear

may decrease over time. Your orthodontist will provide guidance based on the stability of your teeth alignment. A memorable phrase to keep in mind regarding wearing your retainer is: “Nighttime for a lifetime to ensure your hard-fought results!”

Why are retainers prescribed?

Retainers are prescribed for two reasons: first, to allow the bone that holds teeth to rebuild after teeth have moved, and second, to maintain the healthy new positions of teeth after active orthodontic treatment ends. Your body changes your whole life, and your teeth change too. The only way to keep your teeth in the ideal position created by your orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers for life!

How do I keep my retainer clean? 

If you’ve been fitted with a removable retainer, it’s easy to clean when you take it out. Your orthodontist will show you how. If your retainer is attached to your teeth, it’s important to brush thoroughly after meals and clean under the wire with dental floss at least once a day. Ask your orthodontist how to care for your fixed retainer.

My retainer feels tight. Can I still wear it?

As long as your retainer doesn’t hurt and still fits over your teeth, you can wear it – even if it feels tight. Your teeth may have slightly shifted, and you may need to wear your retainer longer each day to prevent your teeth from moving. 

Try wearing your retainer full-time for a few days to encourage your teeth to move back into their correct positions. If the retainer continues to feel uncomfortable, contact your AAO orthodontist to determine the next steps.

How often should I wear my retainer?

Retainers are effective only if you faithfully follow your orthodontist’s instructions for wearing them. Wearing a retainer after your braces are removed is the best way to preserve that healthy, beautiful smile you worked so hard to get.

I lost my retainer. What should I do?

Call your orthodontist right away to make arrangements for replacement retainers. Without retainers, there can be unwanted movement of teeth.

For more information on retainers, check out our blog, Taking Care of Your Retainer, or watch this video.