What Should You Do if You Break Your Permanent Retainer?

December 22, 2017

A woman worried about her permanent retainer.
If your permanent retainer has broken, you’ll want to go to your orthodontist to get it fixed as soon as you can. You will most likely have the option to have it removed and replaced, or you can choose to get a removable one so your permanent one doesn’t break again. If you find that your permanent retainer has broken in some way, here’s what you should do immediately:

Inspect the Damage

If part of the wire has come loose from your teeth, it may still be keeping your teeth straight. You should go to the orthodontist to get it fixed, but you don’t have to worry about your teeth moving too much while you wait. If a wire is poking out and causing pain and discomfort, do what you can to move the wire to a comfortable position and schedule an appointment with your orthodontist right away!

Avoid Hard, Sticky, or Gummy Foods

A permanent retainer is a lot like having braces, so if the wire is out of place, avoid any foods that are bad for braces. You don’t want your permanent retainer to break off any more than it already has!

Rinse Your Mouth With Warm Salt Water

Remember all of those remedies you were shown when you first got braces to ease the pain from where the wire poked you? Prevent infection and help cuts heal by rinsing your mouth with warm salt water if the retainer cut your tongue or the inside of your cheek.

Get a Mouth Guard

If you can’t get an appointment right away, sleep with a mouth guard to protect your tongue from the loose wire. While there are a number of mouth guards to choose from, you can easily get an over-the-counter one for relatively cheap while you wait for your orthodontist appointment.
Blue molded mouth guard.

It’s Been Years Since I Had Braces. Do I Need a New Retainer?

Most likely.

When it comes to orthodontic treatment, your teeth may still try to move back to where they were after the braces are removed. If you don’t wear your retainer, you might find yourself having to get braces again. To avoid this, work with your orthodontist to determine if you need a new one or not.

Your teeth may become crooked again if you stop wearing your retainer and:

  • You originally had big gaps between your teeth that were fixed by orthodontic treatment
  • Your jaw is still growing
  • You can see or feel your teeth move over time without the permanent retainer holding them in place
  • Your wisdom teeth came in

These are only a few of the reasons you may need a new retainer. There could be other factors that can help you determine if you need a new retainer, permanent or removable.

Final verdict:

Work with your orthodontist to determine what you should do if your retainer breaks.

Should I Just get a Removable Retainer Instead?

If you just got your braces off, some orthodontists offer the choice between a permanent retainer or a removable one. Or, you may get a removable retainer for your top teeth while your bottom teeth are fixed in place with a permanent one. There are advantages and disadvantages to both kinds of retainers, so the choice is up to you and your orthodontist!

Removable retainers in a green case.

Permanent Retainer


  • You can’t lose or forget to put in a permanent retainer.
  • It’s more invisible than a removable retainer because it sits behind the teeth.
  • It doesn’t impact speech.


  • It will eventually need to be removed.
  • Flossing and brushing can be harder to do.
  • There’s a higher risk for cavities and gum disease.

Removable Retainer


  • It’s easier to brush your teeth.
  • You don’t have to wear it all the time.
  • They are sometimes cheaper.


  • You can lose it.
  • You can forget to wear it.
  • It can create a lisp and you may find your mouth produces more saliva.

Did You Lose or Break Your Retainer?

If your permanent or removable retainer broke, come in for an orthodontist appointment! We know it happens, so give us a call! We can help fix it so you can keep your teeth nice and straight!

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