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Broken Retainer? Here's What You Can Do

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Accidentally broke your retainer? It happens. But unlike breaking a nail or a coffee mug, breaking a retainer is a much bigger deal. After all, you don't want to undo all the beautiful work your braces did on your teeth.

Learn what you can do if your fixed or removable retainer's been damaged – from noting the damage to removing the retainer to devising a temporary fix.

Recognizing Damage to a Fixed Retainer

Wear and tear, hard foods, or a mouth injury can cause your teeth to detach from a permanent retainer or the wires to break. You might not even be aware of an issue until your teeth begin to move out of their correct position.

We realize it can be difficult for you to tell if your fixed retainer is damaged, so it's essential to get regular dental checkups. You might also regularly schedule orthodontist checkups – at least for the first year you wear a retainer. By finding the problem sooner rather than later, you may minimize the effects of a broken retainer.

You might want to make an orthodontist appointment asap if you:

  • Suffer a mouth injury
  • Bite down on something unexpectantly hard
  • Feel something is wrong with your retainer – or your bite

Better safe than sorry, eh?

Removing a Broken Fixed Retainer

Usually, an orthodontic professional will need to remove a bonded retainer. To do this, your provider must:

  1. Remove the dental cement with a drill.
  2. Ease the retainer away from your teeth.
  3. Clean and polish the surface of your teeth.

Once the retainer's out of your mouth, your orthodontist will determine whether it needs repair or if it requires replacement.

What You Can Do at Home

If you discover your retainer might be damaged but you're unable to get to the orthodontist or dentist immediately, what should you do? We offer a few actions you can take to minimize the damage to your mouth:

For Fixed Retainers
  • Find someone you trust to examine your retainer. Have them determine whether the retainer seems stable in your mouth and if you can still use it. As you carefully use your retainer, make your own determination.
  • Purchase an over-the-counter mouthguard to wear at night. Until you can see your orthodontist, the mouthguard can help protect a fixed retainer while you sleep and prevent any teeth movement.
For Removable Retainers
  • Examine the retainer yourself to see how severe the damage is.
  • If it's damaged enough that a cheap removable retainer could help you in the short run, purchase it.
For All Retainers
  • Avoid hard foods and sports activities until you can get the attention you need to repair or remove the retainer.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to help heal any painful spots.
  • Step up your oral hygiene by adding an antibacterial mouth rinse. This is particularly important if the damage makes it possible for food or bacteria to access previously unreachable areas – such as between the back of your teeth and the retainer.

For the question "How can I fix my broken retainer?" – the answer is you really shouldn't fix it. Both fixed and removable retainers are custom-made to hold your teeth in place. You shouldn't mess with a broken retainer – get a new one or have it professionally fixed.

Your Retainer Options

Teeth keep moving until you're in your early to mid-20s because the jaw is still growing. And even if you got braces later in life, you might need a retainer to maintain your bite. Here are some options to help you:

  • If your orthodontist can't repair your broken retainer, your best option is to get a new retainer made as soon as possible. If you need to set up a payment plan to pay for the process and the new retainer, talk to your orthodontist.
  • If you can't visit your orthodontist right away, ask if they can remake your retainer based on their records. This can work if you haven't had your retainer very long. And it will save you the cost of having the entire process redone.
  • If necessary, a cheap removable retainer could help to support your mouth until you get your new fixed retainer.

If you've invested in orthodontic treatment to achieve a perfect bite and smile, don't let a broken retainer undo all that hard work. Get a dental opinion as soon as possible about whether your retainer needs repairing or replacing. And discuss all your options with your orthodontist. The sooner you can put a repaired or new retainer in your mouth, the sooner your teeth will thank you.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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