Remember Your Retainer

How to Remember to Wear Your Retainer

Remember to wear your retainer! After all the time devoted toward correcting your teeth, you want to ensure you keep working towards or maintaining results. Orthodontic treatment is a long process, and finally getting braces and other hardware removed can be freeing. It may feel like you’re finally done with restrictions, obstructions, and instructions. However, while there are far fewer restrictions for food and drink once you get your braces removed, you’re not off the hook completely. The next step of orthodontics is usually getting a retainer or retainers put in place. Take heart—even with retainers, there’s a lot more freedom: you can simply remove your retainer to eat.

Do You Forget to Wear Your Retainer?

Unfortunately, your newfound freedom can sometimes make you forget about your retainer. Keeping your retainer in place as much as possible is essential to your orthodontic health because it keeps your teeth from shifting out of the places your braces moved them to. Wearing your retainer the way your orthodontist has told you to is a necessary part of your orthodontic treatment, and failing to do so could mean a return to braces in the future.

Most people will need to constantly wear a retainer for at least the first few months to a year after having their braces removed. Your orthodontist will likely instruct you to leave the retainer in place except for when you brush your teeth, eat, or play certain instruments. Eventually, you’ll likely only need to wear it at night to keep your teeth in place. Retainers are needed whether you’ve had traditional braces or Invisalign, and all patients need them as part of orthodontic treatment, no matter their age.

Remember Your Retainer

The Function of Your Retainer

Once your braces come off, your teeth are still prone to shift back into their original positions. The period right after braces removal is known as the retention state, and consistent use of a retainer is meant to ensure the teeth become set in their new positions. This is because the ligaments that hold your teeth in position have had to stretch and move while your braces move your teeth into the correct alignment. Without help from your retainer, the fibers will retract and shift the teeth back to their original state. Over time and with correct retainer use, the fibers stabilize and do a better job of supporting your teeth in the new position.

While this is the most critical period, it is still important to continue wearing a retainer long after the retention state ends. Although the ligaments and teeth are more stable, they can still naturally shift back into their original position. In fact, failing to wear your retainer may undo all the work on your teeth from years of braces. Not only can this be frustrating and painful, but it can also be expensive.

Wearing your retainers consistently is important for your orthodontics in a couple of ways.

Retainers Keep Your Teeth in Place

Retainers Keep Your Teeth in Place

As mentioned, the ligaments and even the gums holding your teeth in place have a natural tendency to pull your teeth back into their natural state. Retainers help your teeth stabilize your ligaments and gum tissues, which is why you need to wear your retainer most of the day at first. After these support structures have been reorganized and are able to establish the new position of your teeth, your orthodontist will let you wear the retainer less often.

Consistent Retainer Use Helps Prevent Damage to Your Mouth

If you go too long without wearing your retainer, you may cause damage to your gums when you put it back in. This is because your teeth may have shifted enough that your retainer mold no longer fits. If you’ve gone too long without wearing your retainer and it no longer fits well, it’s important to contact your orthodontist.

Your retainer should fit securely without moving around in your mouth. If you put your retainer in and it feels especially tight, this may mean you’re not wearing it enough. Don’t try to force the retainer into your mouth if you’ve gone a few weeks without wearing it.

Retainers Can Help Stabilize Your Bite

Retainers help your jawbone realign itself with your gums after your teeth shift, and consistent use helps to improve and stabilize your bite. If you still have wisdom teeth emerging, retainers can also preserve room for the new teeth, eliminating the crowding and shifting that often occurs with these teeth. Overall, your retainer will help you develop a healthier bite that will remain stable for many years following the removal of your braces.

Ways to Remember to Wear Your Retainer

It’s always important to listen to the treatment plan your orthodontist sets out for you. If your orthodontist has told you to wear your retainer except for meals and brushing, you should do so. Only change your retainer schedule if your orthodontist says you can.

However, even if you intend to wear your retainer as instructed, it can be more difficult than you expect to actually put your intentions into practice. Because you never needed to remember to use your braces to straighten your teeth, it can be hard to adjust once you’re responsible for keeping your retainer in place. While it’s simple to remember to remove your retainers before meals and brushing, distractions happen, and you might forget to replace it.

Here are some tips to remember to wear your retainer, so you can ensure you’re not reversing years of orthodontic work.

Always Put Your Retainer Back in the Case

It’s important to always place your retainer in its case if it’s not in your mouth. Many people will wrap their retainer in a napkin while eating. While sometimes necessary, it increases the risk of your retainer being thrown away. Placing your retainer in its case and keeping the case near you as you eat or brush your teeth can keep your container safe and ensure you remember to wear it.

Label Your Retainer Case

Labeling your retainer case can help you keep track of it. Personalizing the case by choosing a bright color or adding stickers will help you pick it out from others or find it among your things, but it may not help others who find it. Labeling your case with your name and phone number will ensure your retainer gets back to you if you ever lose. This step only works if you keep your retainer in its case, so be sure to follow tip #1 and place the retainer in the case when not in your mouth.

Keep the Case Visible

Finding a visible spot to keep your case can help you keep your retainer front of mind. If you’ve switched to night-use only, the bathroom counter may be the perfect place to keep the case, so you can clean your retainers before and after wearing them at night. Or, your nightstand or dresser may be a good place. By keeping the case visible, you’re more likely to see it before bed and remember to wear your retainer.

If you have to leave home, take note of dental travel tips. Keep your retainer, keep the case in the same place in your purse, bag, or backpack. That way, you’ll always know where to find it. It may be helpful to pick a brightly colored retainer case at the orthodontist. Not only is picking a colorful retainer case fun, but it’s also useful in making your case visible. That way, no matter where your retainer case is, you’ll be able to find it easily.

Ask for Help from Family or Friends

Asking people in your life to remind you to wear your retainer is one of the simplest ways to remember to wear your retainer. Whether that’s your parents, a friend, someone who eats lunch with you, a roommate, sibling, or spouse, ask if they can remind you to wear your retainer. Even asking for help from others can help you solidify your own memory, then you’ll be ready to answer “yes” to each reminder.

Make a Note

Creating a handwritten note to remind yourself can help make wearing your retainer a routine. You can put a sticky note up on your bathroom mirror, on your computer, on your bedroom wall, in your wallet, on a calendar, in your backpack, in your lunch bag, or even in your workspace or locker. Consider creating several notes in places you see every day so you’re reminded to check for your retainer. After some time, you may become used to seeing your note and eventually overlook the sticky note—if that happens, it’s time to create a new one in another color or put it on another surface.

Create a Digital Reminder

If an old-school note isn’t enough to help you remember your retainer, set a digital alert on your phone or another device. If you wear your retainer at night, set an alarm a few minutes before you usually go to bed. If you need to wear your retainer constantly, set the alarm for a little after lunchtime or at regular intervals during the day, especially if you’re prone to forgetting. Be sure that it’s an alarm you won’t miss, snooze, or ignore by setting it for a time you won’t be busy.

Create a Digital Reminder

Establish a Routine

Create a daily habit when you remove and insert your retainer. This includes storing it in the same spot and removing it during the same activity or at the same time. Once you’ve established this routine, it will become a habit. By associating your retainer with the things you already do every day, such as brushing your teeth, setting your alarm, or drinking water, you’re less likely to forget to place your retainer.

Develop a Retainer Care Routine

While you should already be accustomed to cleaning your retainer each day before and after you place it in your mouth, don’t forget about the rest of your retainer care routine. Clean with water and a toothbrush each time you take it out, and then schedule a day of the week to rinse and soak in retainer cleaner. Schedule regular check-ins with your orthodontist to determine when you need a replacement retainer.

Remember to Wear Your Retainer

You won’t need to wear your retainer forever, but we know it can seem like a tedious, endless step in your orthodontic care. Keep in mind that your retainer is necessary to ensure your teeth, ligaments, gums, and jaw have adapted to the work your braces have done. Without it, your teeth will shift back into their original positions, and your time with braces will have been for nothing—you may even need to visit your orthodontist and have braces affixed to your teeth all over again.

Don’t worry; if you miss out on an hour of wearing your retainer after dinner or forget to wear it one night, it’s not the end of the world. Still, it’s important to make up for lost time where possible. Contact your orthodontist if you’ve gone more than a week without wearing your retainer. Moving forward, stay diligent when it comes to remembering your retainer, and create as many reminders as you need to avoid forgetting your routine.

Wear Your Retainer

Accidents do happen, even when you’re careful to wear your retainer as directed. If you’ve lost or damaged your retainer, it’s important that you get a replacement as soon as possible. Contact our orthodontist professionals to ensure you get a high-quality retainer that will keep your mouth healthy and ensure your healthy smile is a lasting one.


For more orthodontic care tips, whether you’re home or while you’re traveling, read more from the experts at Robison Orthodontics.