An orthodontic retainer is a custom-made appliance that keeps teeth from shifting after braces removal. Anything that can control the movement of the sensitive bones and ligaments in your mouth sounds painful. Therefore, it’s easy to worry and assume that retainers hurt.
Orthodontists are familiar with this common concern among patients: “Do retainers hurt?” “Do retainers hurt at first?” “Do retainers hurt teeth?” “Why do retainers hurt?” “Are retainers supposed to hurt?”
While tolerable pain levels are normal at first, as long as the retainer fits correctly and is in good condition, it shouldn’t hurt for long. There are ways to prevent or eliminate that pain.
What Your Retainer Does
When you wear braces, your teeth gradually shift into new, better positions. Unfortunately, once braces are removed, your teeth are left without support. “Teeth tend to return to their original positions because of their solid long-term memory, putting your orthodontic treatment in jeopardy.” Your retainer holds your teeth in place “long enough for the bone and ligament to reform and mature around them.”
New Retainers Might Hurt at First
Q: Do retainers hurt the first day? Do retainers hurt at first?
A: Probably, but only for a few days.
When you start an exercise program, you get sore muscles. However, as you consistently follow your program, the soreness disappears. The same is true with a retainer.
Your retainer hurts because it’s unfamiliar. Think about what is happening in your mouth. Newly freed from the confinement of braces, your teeth are unsettled and don’t yet have the new bone tissue needed to keep them in place. Your retainer keeps your teeth from moving right back to where they came from. That takes some pressure, and pressure causes pain.
Other Causes of Retainer Pain
Q: Do retainers hurt? Do retainers hurt teeth? Why do retainers hurt? Are retainers supposed to hurt?
A: They shouldn’t hurt, but something has gone wrong and needs immediate attention if they do.
A retainer is not worn as prescribed – You may be instructed to wear your retainer at all times for a while, then at night only. It is essential to follow these instructions carefully to prevent your teeth from shifting.
A retainer is improperly inserted or removed – If you’re not careful, retainer wires can bend and change shape, putting painful pressure on your teeth.
An old retainer – The materials that make up your retainer may wear down over time. As a result, it may no longer fit properly and may develop spots that irritate your mouth. At some point, you’ll need a new retainer.
An improperly fitted retainer or teeth that have moved – Your teeth can settle in a way that means your retainer won’t fit right.
A broken/damaged retainer – There may be a rough edge, or small pieces of metal or plastic may be out of place. In addition, hot water can change the shape of the plastic, and wires can bend.
Have You Been Wearing Your Retainer Accordingly?
Q: Do retainers hurt? Why do retainers hurt? Are retainers supposed to hurt?
A: If you wear your retainer as prescribed, it shouldn’t hurt.
Wearing your retainer is a lifelong commitment. Without consistently wearing it as prescribed, your teeth “will not hesitate to return to their original spots once the braces are removed.” In addition, if you forget to wear it for a while, the pressure may be painful once you start wearing it again. It’s like stopping your exercise program and, upon starting it again, experiencing the same soreness you had when you first started.
Also, if you stop wearing the retainer long enough for your teeth to move, it will no longer fit correctly. Remember, you’re wearing a retainer to give your teeth the chance to settle into their new positions. Leaving it out too long can allow your teeth to shift.
What About Appropriate Retainer Care?
Q: Do retainers hurt? Are retainers supposed to hurt? Why do retainers hurt?
A: If you take good care of your retainer, it doesn’t have to hurt.
First, keep your retainer away from heat; hot water or other heat sources will distort the plastic.
“It is critical to clean your retainer immediately after removing it from your mouth while it is still wet.” First, rinse it with warm water, then brush it with a soft toothbrush. You can also soak it in mouthwash or denture cleaner.
When not in use, keep your retainer in a safe place, such as in a case made for the device, and store it away from heat and other damage-causing situations.
When Should I Call My Orthodontist?
Q: Do retainers hurt? Are retainers supposed to hurt?
A: They’re not supposed to hurt. If they do, contact the orthodontist.
Retainer pain should not last more than a week. After that, you have to do your part and (1) wear it as prescribed, and (2) keep it clean and protected. Retainers can change shape, or they may no longer fit if they are not worn properly. If this or other factors cause your pain, you’ll need your orthodontist’s help, so call as soon as possible.
DIY: Tips on How to Tackle Retainer Pain
Q: Do retainers hurt? What can I do about it?
A: There are several things you can do!
Over-the-counter medication – Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help.
Cold things – Cold food and drinks, ice cubes, and cold packs will numb the area.
Dental wax and teething gel – This provides a cushion against irritation.
Soft or liquid meals – You’ll have less pressure on your teeth.
Saltwater gargle – This disinfects and reduces inflammation.
Topical analgesics – These reduce tooth and gum pain.
Schedule your COMPLIMENTARY Consultation!
Your retainer keeps your teeth in the healthy positions your braces worked so hard to achieve. The first few painful days may make you think, “Retainers hurt!” But when you wear it as your orthodontist prescribed and take good care of it, the pain should pass. Pain beyond those days indicates a problem your orthodontist can fix.
Do retainers hurt? Maybe for a few achy days. But when all is done right, no, they don’t.
If you have more questions concerning dental retainers, make sure that you schedule a complimentary consultation with Loudoun Orthodontics or check out our blog for more information on orthodontic treatments!