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How Often Could Retainers Be Replaced?

Retainers are a vital part of helping you maintain your ideal smile. Custom-made and fitted to the shape of your mouth, they work with and after braces to hold your teeth in a corrected position.1 After your braces align your teeth, your orthodontist or dentist will fit a retainer to ensure that your newly straightened teeth can stay in their optimum places, ensuring that the time effort that braces have done to align your teeth doesn’t go to waste.

Your dental provider may recommend you wear your retainer throughout the day or at night for a few months, or they could recommend you wear it at night for the rest of your life.1 With such long-term prospects for this custom equipment, it’s worth knowing how long a retainer might last, when to replace retainers and how often you should be refitted by your orthodontist or dentist. Read on to learn a suggestive timeframe for suggestions on retainer replacements, keeping in mind that it is up to the dental professional managing your orthodontics to determine the best need and time.

How Long Can a Retainer Last?

There are three main types of retainers:

  • Hawley retainers are typically made of acrylic or hard plastic, connected by a stainless-steel wire.1 These are fitted to the roof of your mouth.1
  • Clear retainers are made of transparent plastic and fit directly over your teeth.1
  • Fixed retainers, also known as permanent retainers, are bonded directly to your teeth.1,2

How long your retainers should last depends on how well you care for them and the type of retainer.2 Clear retainers are usually the least long-lived, since they reside directly on the surface of your teeth and are exposed to daily eating, chewing and consumables.2

Hawley and fixed retainers, on the other hand, can last you far longer with regular care and cleaning.2 But out of the three, fixed retainers can last the longest as they are permanently glued in.2

When Should You Replace Your Retainer?

How often you should replace your retainer depends on your habits and retainer type and can be anywhere from 6 months to several years, however, your dentist will determine the need for change.2 Regardless of how long your retainers are expected to last, it’s important to get routine checkups at least every 6 months to see if they are still effective.2

Typically, retainers can last many years when taken care of properly.2 The frequency of retainer replacement depends on how well you care for it by doing things like, storing it in its container when you’re not wearing it, keeping it away from heat and ensuring your pets don’t get hold of it.2 One of the primary indicators that it's time to replace your retainer is wear and tear: over time, a retainer can become worn down from natural movement, leading to decreased effectiveness in holding your teeth in place.2

Additionally, if you have a fixed retainer, it’s important to brush your teeth after you eat and use floss to clean under the wire.2 Your orthodontist or dentist might recommend you use a daily cleanser such as Polident Pro Guard Antibacterial Cleanser or Polident 3-Minute Denture Cleanser to help keep your removable retainer clean.3

How to Maintain your Retainer for Longevity

  1. Clean your retainer daily: Just like brushing your teeth, it's important to clean your retainer daily to remove any plaque, food particles or bacteria.1 Gently brush your retainer with a soft toothbrush specially designed for dental appliances, such as the Polident Dental Appliance Brush.
  2. Handle retainers carefully: Retainers are delicate devices and should be handled with care. Avoid putting them in your pocket or purse. When not in use, store your retainer in its protective case to protect it from accidental damage or loss.2,3
  3. Keep away from excessive temperatures: Exposing your retainer to heat can cause it to warp or lose its shape.3 Avoid leaving your retainer in direct sunlight or hot environments such as inside hot cars.3
  4. Attend regular dental check-ups: Regular visits to your dentist or orthodontist are essential for monitoring the condition of your retainer and ensuring that it continues to function effectively.1,2

By taking care of your retainer and following its recommended practices for care and maintenance, you're investing in and taking care of your smile. Remember to consult with your dental professional for advice on when to replace your retainer or get a refitting and you’ll be able to hold on to your retainer for years to come.

Source Citations:

  1. Teeth Retainer. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed 6/23/2023.
  2. Retainer. American Association of Orthodontists. Accessed 01/16/2024.
  3. Retainer Care 101: Your Guide to Longevity. American Association of Orthodontists. Accessed 01/16/2024.