Skip to main content

How to Cope With Retainer Discomfort

When it comes to achieving your perfect smile you may experience a bit of pain – or discomfort, at least. If a removable dental appliance, such as an aligner or retainer, causes discomfort it’s important to contact your dentist immediately. Here are some topics to help guide that conversation.

When does aligner or retainer discomfort matter?

Discomfort, dull aches, soreness and tenderness can all be experienced by people during or after tooth realignment treatment. But discomfort is personal. What wakes one person up at night could leave another sleeping like a baby. It’s important to think about what type of discomfort you're experiencing, where it is, how long you’ve had it and if there’s anything you might be doing to cause it. This will help you to figure out whether you should be putting up with it or speaking to your dental professional. Either way, remember, extreme pain is never acceptable. Your mouth or teeth are telling you something is wrong.

Why does my aligner or retainer hurt?

There are four main reasons you could experience pain or discomfort from removable dental appliances:

  1. New thing in my mouth
    Whether it’s your first retainer or aligner (also called a clear brace or tray) it’ll probably feel a little strange. Although retainers and aligners are generally thought to be more comfortable than metal alternatives, they can still rub and irritate the inside of your mouth, your gums and lips. While this can lead to soreness, it usually goes after a couple of weeks as your mouth adjusts to the new aligner or retainer.

  2. You’re moving my teeth
    If you’re going through treatment to realign your teeth, you’ll be given a new aligner set every 1-2 weeks. Each new set will be molded slightly differently to apply just the right amount of pressure in just the right places to coax your teeth into a new position. For the first 3-5 days after putting on a new set it will probably feel uncomfortable. Gradually as your teeth move to settle into the new position dictated by the new aligner, the discomfort should begin to ease – until the next set! Don’t worry if you’re not overjoyed by the idea of having to just grin and bear it, there are some things you can do to help. Check out the list below.

  3. My teeth have moved
    One possible reason for tightness with an aligner or retainer is tooth movement. Not wearing your retainer or aligner allows your teeth to move out of position and may cause it to feel even tighter when you try to wear it again. As your dentist has prescribed should only remove your aligner for eating and cleaning during treatment. The same goes for your retainer for at least the first 6 months after treatment. If you’re having trouble refitting your removable dental appliance, talk to your dental professional.

    If it’s a new retainer that’s causing you discomfort, then you may just need to give it a bit of time. Although similarly molded around your teeth, unlike aligners, retainers aren’t usually designed to move your teeth anywhere, they just keep them where they need to be. Any initial discomfort with a new retainer should pass within a day or two of continuous use. If the discomfort isn’t easing after a few days of continuous wear, contact your dental professional.

  4. Ouch! That’s sharp ‘pain’
    This is the type of pain that shouldn’t happen. It may be that an adjustment is needed or it could be something unrelated. If you’re experiencing severe, sharp, stabbing, unexpected or persistent pain contact your dental professional immediately. Caution is a watchword as it can be easier to prevent a problem than fix one. You may even find it’s a problem unrelated to your removable dental appliance. If you feel any pain speak to your dental professional right away.

Tips to tackle aligner or retainer pain

Pain killers 

If you are experiencing discomfort due to your retainer or aligner always contact your dentist first. If the pain is minor, over the counter pain relivers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help. Always consult your dentist before taking any medication. 

Soft foods 

If your teeth are feeling sore, you can avoid crunchy hard foods for a while.

Warm salt water

Rinsing with warm salt water can help soothe and heal mouth sores, caused by rubbing. It is a natural disinfectant that can also reduce inflammation. Try saltwater rinses 2-3 times a day. Always consult your dentist first.