Pain due to Retainers too tight


Retainer Too Tight

Written By : Generations of Smiles Writers

Reviewed By : Charles Rodgers, DDS

Published: Feb 10, 2022

In This Article

The day has finally come – the braces are off, and you have the straight, beautiful, dazzling teeth you’ve been dreaming of for so long. But the journey isn’t over just yet. Now, it’s time to make sure they stay in alignment for the long haul. Wearing a retainer is likely to be a welcome reprieve from braces, although it can cause a certain level of discomfort at times. But are retainers supposed to be tight? Can a tight retainer damage teeth? And how long does retainer pain last?

A New Retainer May Hurt at First

If a new retainer feels tight, don’t be alarmed. When braces first come off, there is an adjustment period in which new teeth settle into their permanent places. It’s the retainer’s job to keep them where they’re supposed to be. A tight retainer may hurt a bit if teeth have shifted, as it is made to not necessarily move teeth but simply keep them in the proper place.

A new appliance in your mouth can also rub your lips, cheeks, and tongue differently, causing some discomfort or sores at first. This stage shouldn’t last long, as your mouth will adjust to the new status quo of having a retainer.

How Long Does a Retainer Hurt?

It’s normal for a retainer to be uncomfortable, tight, or a bit painful for the first few days of wearing it. Even if the discomfort extends to a full week, it’s still usually not a cause for alarm. However, if you experience retainer pain for more than a full week, it’s time to call your orthodontist. A retainer should not be a cause of persistent, ongoing pain that interferes with your ability to function properly on a daily basis.

Not Wearing a Retainer Can Make Your Teeth Hurt

Is your retainer too tight when you put it in after not wearing it for a while, should I wear my retainer? Failing to wear your retainer can have some unintended side effects that are not very pleasant. If your retainers feel tight every night, it could be due to shifting and slight movements of the teeth during the day when they’re retainer-free. A retainer feeling tight is not always a bad thing; it is just an indication that something has happened since the last time you wore it (or since the original mold was made). It’s important to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you, recognizing the difference between tightness or discomfort and actual pain that could be signaling a problem.

How to Know if Your Retainer Doesn’t Fit

A retainer should not be consistently too tight or constantly too loose – but what should you do if it is? If you feel the retainer is too tight on your teeth or that it doesn’t fit properly in some way, call your orthodontist for an appointment right away. It should not be a source of pain or discomfort for long periods of time.

How to Tighten a Retainer at Home

The answer is simple — you don’t! If your retainer is constantly loose, trying to tighten it yourself could damage the appliance as well as your teeth. Tightening an improperly fitted retainer is the job of a professional, so let your orthodontist know what’s going on and sit back and let them resolve the issue at hand.

How Do Orthodontists Tighten Retainers?

There are several different types of retainers; how they are adjusted depends on what type or types you have. Plastic retainers that are similar to an Invisalign aligner will need to be remade if they aren’t fitting properly. If you have a retainer that is permanently fixed to your teeth, it will need to be removed, adjusted, and reattached in the correct position. A removable retainer that has a wire piece is the easiest for an orthodontist to adjust; they will analyze whether the retainer was properly made to begin with or whether the issue is drifting of the teeth from the position set in place by the braces.

Correct Care of Retainer

If your retainer hurts teeth and causes significant pain, it could be a result of incorrect care. It is of the utmost importance that your retainer is regularly stored in its case when not in use. This will prevent unnecessary damage from breakage. It’s also vital that the retainer is rinsed only with lukewarm to warm water, and never in hot water. Hot water can permanently alter the shape of the plastic that touches the roof of your mouth, changing the way the retainer fits. This can cause pain when the retainer is pushed onto and left on the teeth, as it will no longer be aligned with the position your teeth were left in after braces. Taking simple steps to properly care for your retainer can save you a lot of pain (and money!) in the long run.

How to Make Retainers More Comfortable

Keeping your retainer in the appropriate shape with proper care is extremely important to the level of comfort you experience. While some discomfort is normal in the first week of wearing a retainer or after having it tightened, that should not be the case day-to-day. Practicing good retainer care habits on a regular basis will go a long way in keeping you comfortable, as will a few tricks-of-the-trade when it comes to dealing with the frustrating abrasions and inconveniences that can come with wearing a retainer for the first time.

Tips to Manage Retainer Pain

No matter how perfect the fit or how used to discomfort you are from a stint in braces, there will likely be a bit of retainer pain to deal with. Setting appropriate expectations and knowing what to do in the event you experience pain can make the situation more manageable. It’s always important to monitor the type of pain you experience – discomfort and some pain is normal to a certain extent, but if you have sharp, stabbing, or unexpected pain, call your orthodontist immediately for a professional assessment of the situation.

Watch What You Eat

Choosing the right foods can actually help with retainer pain. Pick soft, cool, or even cold foods that will help soothe any aching you might experience; avoid anything crunchy, hard, or extra-chewy for a while, as your teeth are vulnerable to shifting soon after removing braces. Hard-to-chew foods can be tough on the teeth in general when they are sore from movement or when you have lesions in the mouth due to friction from a retainer.

Soften the Edges

If you find that certain parts of the appliance are causing pain by rubbing against your lips, cheeks, or tongue, try a bit of dental wax or a numbing gel. Taking the edge off with a product designed to increase your comfort while wearing a retainer can get you through the tough times, especially during the first week.

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication and Ice Packs

Over-the-counter meds can help relieve the dull aches and discomfort that can accompany retainer use. Be sure to choose a medication that’s right for you, taking into account its interaction with any other medications you might be taking. If you need an extra boost of comfort, apply an ice pack to the affected area to ease any aching pains that might bother you.

Know When it’s Time to See a Professional

Monitor your retainer pain and rotate through tips like using pain medication, wax, and other topical treatments for discomfort. But it’s also important to keep track of your pain’s progression, recognizing the signs that there may be an underlying problem that would be best resolved by a professional. Don’t wait until the pain is unbearable – call your orthodontist right away for an evaluation.

Does Insurance Cover Retainer Replacement?

Insurance is a great way to transfer financial risk; and when it comes to retainers that must sometimes be worn for years, there is a strong possibility that you will need a costly replacement retainer at some point in the future. But just how much do retainers cost to replace? The cost to replace a retainer can vary based on many factors, including the type of retainer, your geographic location, and whether or not you have retainer insurance coverage. Due to the high retainer cost without insurance, it would be wise to invest in retainer insurance from the get-go to avoid incurring unnecessary financial burdens in the future.

Orthodontist Near Me

If you’re looking for a top-notch orthodontist and access to financial plans for your dental and orthodontic needs, check out Smile Generation. With flexible financing options and a dental plan to meet your needs and those of your loved ones, it’s the perfect place to find the right orthodontist and financial solutions that work for your unique situation. Or if you're just looking for a dentist try out Find a Dentist Tool.


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Smile Generation blog articles are reviewed by a licensed dental professional before publishing. However, we present this information for educational purposes only with the intent to promote readers’ understanding of oral health and oral healthcare treatment options and technology. We do not intend for our blog content to substitute for professional dental care and clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment planning provided by a licensed dental professional. Smile Generation always recommends seeking the advice of a dentist, physician, or other licensed healthcare professional for a dental or medical condition or treatment. 

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