Oral Health Blog

When Should You Throw Away a Retainer?

You should consider replacing your retainer if it becomes damaged, doesn't fit well anymore, or shows signs of wear. Regular cleaning with a purple persulfate-free retainer cleaner can help maintain its clarity, condition, and longevity.

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Retainer

1. Visible Wear and Tear

  • Cracks and Breaks: One of the most obvious signs that it’s time to replace your retainer is visible damage. Cracks, chips, or complete breaks in the retainer can render it ineffective and potentially harmful.
  • Discoloration: Over time, retainers can become discolored due to exposure to food, drinks, and bacteria. While some discoloration is normal, severe staining can indicate that the retainer has degraded and needs replacement.

2. Poor Fit

  • Tightness or Looseness: A properly fitting retainer should feel snug but comfortable. If your retainer feels excessively tight or loose, it might not be holding your teeth in the correct position. This is a clear sign that you need a new retainer.
  • Shifting Teeth: If you notice your teeth shifting out of alignment despite wearing your retainer as instructed, it’s time to consult your orthodontist. An ill-fitting retainer can cause your teeth to move, negating the benefits of your orthodontic treatment.

3. Unpleasant Odor or Taste

  • Persistent Odor: Retainers can develop an unpleasant odor over time, especially if not cleaned properly. If your retainer still smells bad despite regular cleaning, it may have accumulated bacteria and plaque that are difficult to remove.
  • Bad Taste: A constant bad taste when wearing your retainer can indicate that bacteria and plaque have built up, potentially compromising your oral health. This is a sign that it’s time for a new retainer.

4. Difficulty Cleaning

  • Inability to Remove Plaque: Regular cleaning should keep your retainer free of plaque and bacteria. If you find it increasingly difficult to clean your retainer effectively, it might be time to replace it.
  • Build-Up of Calcium Deposits: Also known as tartar, calcium deposits can accumulate on your retainer over time. If these deposits become difficult to remove, it’s a sign that your retainer needs replacement.

Proper Care to Extend Retainer Lifespan

1. Daily Cleaning

  • Soft Toothbrush: Use a soft toothbrush and mild soap or a retainer cleaner to clean your retainer daily. Avoid using toothpaste, as it can be abrasive and cause scratches.
  • Cold Water: Rinse your retainer with cold or lukewarm water. Hot water can warp the plastic and compromise the fit.

2. Proper Storage

  • Protective Case: Always store your retainer in its protective case when not in use. This prevents damage and reduces the risk of loss.
  • Avoid Heat: Keep your retainer away from heat sources like direct sunlight, hot water, and microwaves, as these can warp the material.

3. Regular Inspections

  • Check for Damage: Regularly inspect your retainer for any signs of wear and tear. Catching damage early can prevent further issues.
  • Consult Your Orthodontist: Schedule regular check-ups with your orthodontist to ensure your retainer is in good condition and functioning properly.

When to Consult Your Orthodontist

1. Persistent Fit Issues

  • Professional Adjustment: If your retainer feels uncomfortable or doesn’t fit properly, consult your orthodontist. They can adjust or replace the retainer to ensure it fits correctly.
  • Shifting Teeth: If you notice any movement in your teeth despite regular retainer use, see your orthodontist immediately. They can determine if your retainer is still effective or if a new one is needed.

2. Oral Health Concerns

  • Gum Irritation: If your retainer causes gum irritation or sores, it’s a sign that something is wrong. Your orthodontist can check the fit and make necessary adjustments or replacements.
  • Persistent Bad Breath: If bad breath persists despite regular cleaning of your retainer, consult your orthodontist. They can recommend solutions to ensure your oral hygiene remains optimal.


Retainers are crucial for maintaining the results of your orthodontic treatment, but they don’t last forever. Recognizing the signs that indicate it’s time to replace your retainer can help you maintain your beautiful smile and prevent dental issues. Visible wear and tear, poor fit, unpleasant odor or taste, and difficulty cleaning are all indicators that you need a new retainer. Proper care, including daily cleaning and proper storage, can extend the lifespan of your retainer. Regular consultations with your orthodontist ensure that your retainer remains effective and that your oral health is in top condition. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can enjoy the benefits of your orthodontic treatment for years to come.

Are you currently using or thinking about using retainer cleaning tablets? It's important to be aware that certain cleaner brands have the potential to cause toxic reactions.

It's crucial to be aware of harmful ingredients hiding in common cleaner brands. One such persulfate, which can pose SERIOUS health risks and is found in almost all leading retainer cleaners brands. Moreover, persulfate's health risks potentially impact respiratory health and skin sensitivities in your family, especially in teens and sensitive individuals. Learn more about the risk of persulfate HERE. 



The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider before making any changes to your health regimen. The author and publisher do not take responsibility for any consequences resulting from the information provided in this article.