How Long Do Clear Retainers Last?

dentist with patient man and woman lab coat smiling dental equipment resultsIf you have had braces or straightened your teeth with Invisalign, you are definitely familiar with clear retainers. For people who had braces, you likely were given a clear retainer after braces were removed in order to prevent shifting. Invisalign users on the other hand, used clear aligning trays much like clear retainers to slowly move their teeth by changing the trays every one to two weeks.

No matter which option you choose, you have to have to get used to caring for clear retainers to avoid going to the orthodontist for unnecessary replacements. If you have just started wearing clear retainers and are not sure how to prevent common problems like cracking, yellowing and improper fit, keep reading. In this article we’ll go over some easy ways that you can make sure that your retainers last as long as possible while staying fresh and clean.

What type of damage occurs to clear retainers?

Clear retainers are designed to be strong, but over time they will begin to show wear and tear

dentist showing patient how retainers work teeth mold demonstration office teaching smileIf your retainer is fitting poorly, it can improperly shift your teeth.

When you are given a retainer for the first time, it looks crystal clear and is molded perfectly to your teeth. However, without the proper care, your retainer will not stay like this for very long. Clear retainer wearers often report yellowing of the clear retainer or that their retainer takes on a cloudy appearance over time. Other clear retainer wearers have issues with cracks appearing in their retainers. 

If you neglect to wear your retainers, even for a short period of time during invisalign or after you have gotten your braces removed, you will eventually have a retainer that no longer fits your teeth. Ill fitting retainers can lead to further teeth shifting and can even be the cause of tooth and jaw pain. All of these common issues with retainers are easily preventable with the proper care. In the next section, we’ll learn a few easy tips so you can avoid these common problems and keep your retainer looking just like new.

What can I do to prevent damage to retainers and Invisalign?

There are many easy ways to prevent your retainers from wearing down prematurely

clear aligners in cup of water blue closeup countertopMany clear retainer wearers prefer to soak their retainer for a deep clean.

When you wear your retainers, you usually pop them in and out without thinking about it. The next time you put in or remove your retainers, remember these tips so that you won’t have to get a replacement set any time soon.

Proper retainer removal

You may not even know it, but there is a good chance that you are removing your retainer or Invisalign trays incorrectly. Improper removal will lead to cracks and breaks in your clear retainer. To properly remove a retainer or Invisalign tray, place one finger on each side of the retainer and gently remove from either your top or bottom teeth. If you are pulling your retainer out from one side predominantly, it can flex and twist the retainer causing excess strain on the plastic.

Always Store Your Retainer In a Case

After proper removal, it is extra important that you remember to place your retainer in its designated case. Your retainer case is there to make sure that no unintended damage occurs while in between wears. Pets are notorious fans of chewing on clear retainers, so if you are a pet owner a protective case is a must have. Having a case handy also prevents you from accidentally throwing away your clear retainer, because they are clear after all!

Clean Your Retainer the Right Way

Retainers can quickly accumulate plaque and begin to yellow if they are not properly cleaned after each wear. A retainer will often spend hours in your mouth holding your teeth in place, so before you know it, your once clear retainer may be looking opaque. To clean your retainer, it is best to avoid using mouthwash or toothpaste as these are abrasive to plastic retainers. Over time, the tiny scratches from abrasive cleaners will begin to cause cloudiness. The proper way to clean your retainer is by supporting the plastic with your hand or a towel to make sure the retainer does not flex during cleaning. Then, using lukewarm soapy water, begin to scrub your retainer gently. For Invisalign users, many prefer to soak their trays in a similar mixture of soap and lukewarm water.

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What should I do if my retainer is broken or damaged?

If your retainer is damaged it is best to call your dentist as soon as possible

young woman on the phone windows open smile white teeth waiting room curly hairYour dentist will be able to quickly replace a broken retainer, so don’t put it off!

If you are using Invisalign to straighten your teeth, but have noticed a crack in your aligner the first step is to call your dentist to get a replacement tray. However, if your current tray has become unwearable, not all is lost. You should always save your trays just in case one would break, that way you will not accidentally lose progress. Use your former tray as you await a replacement from your dentist. If your current tray has become completely unwearable, it is best to discard it. 

If you are using a clear retainer designed to keep your smile in place after braces or Invisalign, the situation becomes a bit more urgent without a backup. For those using a clear retainer after Invisalign, you can use your last tray as a backup retainer in the short term. Though it will keep your teeth in place, an Invisalign tray will not substitute for a replacement retainer. If you do not have an Invisalign tray as a backup, it is best to call your dentist to get a new retainer as soon as you can.


Over time, all retainers will show signs of age. However, by using our tips you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your retainer. No one wants to constantly return to the dentist for replacements! If you are looking to get all of the best accessories to keep your clear retainers looking shiny and new, try The Movemints™ Essential Aligner Accessories kit. The kit contains their signature Movemints™ aligner mints top keep your breath fresh and your aligners in the right place. When you buy the Essential Aligner Accessories kit you also receive several effective whitening and flossing methods formulated specifically for clear aligner patients. If you are ready to take your retainer care to the next level, try Movemints™.

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