retainer pain

Understanding Pain and Discomfort with Retainers (And How to Alleviate It)

Picture this: you’ve finally bid farewell to your braces, but your journey towards that dreamy smile hasn’t ended just yet. Enter the retainer – your new companion designed to ensure your teeth remain in their new, improved positions while your gums adjust. Though tailor-made to your mouth, retainers might initially feel a bit awkward and discomforting.

Experiencing a bit of discomfort during the first few days, or even a week, of wearing your retainer is completely normal. There are simple ways to ease this temporary pain. However, if the discomfort lingers beyond a week, it’s time to give your orthodontist a ring.

Understanding Retainers

Wearing braces is a journey, filled with some discomfort as your teeth shift into their new positions. Once the braces come off, you certainly don’t want your teeth reverting to their original positions. That’s where retainers come in.

A retainer is a custom-made device, a mix of plastic and metal, that fits over the upper teeth. It stays put on the palate, holding your teeth in their new positions.

Retainers ensure your teeth remain in their new positions until your muscles adjust. They are crucial post-braces as not only are the gums and muscles soft, everyday actions like chewing can affect the new teeth positions. Retainers are not a one-size-fits-all solution; they are specially designed for each individual.


What to Expect with Retainers

Wearing a retainer can be a bit uncomfortable initially, especially during the first few days. Even though it is designed to snugly fit your teeth, it takes some time for your mouth to adjust.

You might experience a feeling of tightness and some pain after getting your retainer, similar to what you felt when your braces were first tightened. If you’ve worn braces for a while, this initial discomfort should feel familiar. Persistent retainer pain could indicate a problem with the retainer design, which could lead to dental health issues in the long run. 

Retainer pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including pressure on the teeth and gums.
– Dr. Jeffrey R. Singer

Why Do Retainers Cause Discomfort?

If there’s a gap between removing your braces and getting your retainer, your teeth may have shifted slightly due to the soft gums and changes in pressure. This movement can cause some pain when the retainer is fitted.

Retainers might seem similar to braces, but they are a different device and could chafe the gums and cheeks.

Retainers are delicate and require proper care. If not handled well, they could bend out of shape and lead to pain and discomfort. Hence, it’s important to store your retainer safely when not in use.

25% of patients experience some level of pain or discomfort when wearing retainers

How to Ease Retainer Pain

Most retainer pain subsides within a few days or a week. You can alleviate the discomfort using simple remedies like painkillers, eating soft foods, and rinsing with warm water. If the pain persists beyond a week, consult your orthodontist.

Retainers can cause pain and discomfort, especially when they are first put in.
– Dr. David Hudnall

If the pain is interfering with your daily life, over-the-counter painkillers can provide relief. Common choices include Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and Aspirin. Always consult with your pharmacist or medical professional before starting any medication.

An unexpected way to reduce retainer pain and support healing is to rinse your mouth with warm water during the first week of wearing your retainer. This can help kill bacteria and promote healing if there are any cuts due to the new retainer.

The majority of retainer pain occurs within the first few days of wearing a new retainer

Managing Discomfort from Retainers

Experiencing some discomfort with a new retainer is normal, but there are ways to manage it.

The best way to manage discomfort is to follow your orthodontist’s advice and wear the retainer as prescribed. Removing the retainer, even for a few days, can cause your teeth to shift, leading to pain and discomfort.

If your retainer causes sores or chafing, dental wax or Bonjela gel can provide relief. Also, remember to remove your retainer before eating to prevent bacteria buildup. If your retainer is causing discomfort, consuming soft, cold foods can help soothe the affected areas and promote healing. Chilled soup and ice cream can be a good choice.

Patients who wear their retainers consistently are less likely to experience pain or discomfort


Retainers are a crucial step in your journey towards a perfect smile after removing braces. Though they are custom-made for your mouth, you might experience some discomfort, especially in the first week. Make sure to discuss any discomfort with your orthodontist.

Remember, your teeth and gums are sensitive and can shift easily, especially just after brace removal. Consistent wear of your retainer and managing any discomfort will ensure the best long-term results for your smile.

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