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What to Do If You Break Your Retainer

7 min read
by Dylan Hao |

You spent years saying no to your favorite foods, avoiding popcorn and chewing gum, and dealing with uncomfortable orthodontic appointments. Now that your braces are off, you want all that work to be worthwhile for the rest of your life! 

For that to happen, you must wear your retainer regularly so your newly straightened teeth don’t shift back into their old spots. But this oral appliance doesn’t fit how it used to, and you think it might be broken.

How can you tell?

In some cases, it’s easy to spot a broken retainer. If it’s removable and has snapped, it needs to be fixed. Bonded retainer breaks aren’t usually visible, but you’ll feel the wires poking you or a change in the composite bonds.

The question is, can the broken piece be fixed, or do you need a replacement retainer? This blog will take you through some DIY fixes for broken retainers and how to know when yours is beyond at-home repair.

DIY Fixes for Broken Removable Retainers

Bonded retainers, by nature, are intended to be permanent. If a broken permanent retainer becomes damaged, you’ll need to visit your orthodontist or an emergency dentist for repairs. 

This professional will likely use a dental drill to remove the cement bonding the retainer to the teeth away from it. Then, they’ll clean and polish your teeth’s surfaces before replacing the fixed retainer or, in the case of an emergency specialist, sending you away until you can see your usual orthodontist.

Invisalign aligners and other clear retainers work similarly to bonded retainers. Contact your dental provider immediately if you think your Invisalign may be broken. They should be able to rebond the existing retainer within a few minutes. But if the wire breaks completely, they’ll need to make a new retainer, which can take days or longer.

With removable retainers, you have more options.

What To Do With a Broken Removable Retainer

Removable retainers may be broken if they don’t fit snugly, but that doesn’t mean it’s beyond repair.

If you notice small cracks, a milky or cloudy appearance in the coloring, or any broken or frayed pieces, you shouldn’t use the retainer until it’s fixed. These damaged spots can injure your gums, and the loose fit won’t hold your teeth in place.

The good news is that your newly aligned teeth won’t shift back to their old positions overnight. You have a few days to get your retainer fixed or replaced before you need to be concerned. But don’t put it off — if you need a new retainer, it may take your orthodontist some time to make the replacement.

Household Fixes for a Removable Retainer

Depending on the extent of the damage, you may be able to fix your removable retainer with a few household supplies.

If you see cracks or frays, follow these simple steps for a quick DIY fix to prevent further damage:

  1. Gently clean the plastic retainer using your normal cleaning solution. Don’t immerse it in water, though.
  2. Dry the retainer thoroughly.
  3. Connect the broken parts.
  4. Use dental adhesive or super glue to adhere the fractured parts together.
  5. Wipe off any extra glue using a napkin (avoid tissues or towels that leave fibers behind).
  6. Let the glued retainer set for the recommended time (see your adhesive tube for directions).
  7. Gently wipe the retainer clean once it is fully dried.
  8. Check to ensure it still fits well, giving you that nice “click” sound and the feel you’ve gotten used to by now.

If that retainer repair fix solved the problem, great! Keep that adhesive sealed tightly and on hand just in case you have any other issues, and you can take care of the damage to the retainer yourself again. 

Replacing Your Retainer

As we mentioned, bonded retainers require the aid of an orthodontist to fix. They’ll put new dental composite over the broken wire and bond it to your teeth within about five minutes. If the retainer comes off completely, the doctor may be able to use the same material and rebond it.

Fixed and removable each have their pros and cons. (Read: The Ultimate Guide to Dental Retainers: Types, Care, and Benefits)

But if your bonded retainer broke, it opens you up to the option of a removable version instead. If you were unhappy with the permanent fit and use, this could be an ideal time to discuss switching to a removable retainer. 

Removable Retainer Replacement Options 

Broken removable retainers, like Invisalign, will likely need to be replaced. Your orthodontist should have your mouth impression on file and can easily create a new appliance.

However, this can be expensive, and most dental insurance plans only pay for one retainer over your lifetime. The average out-of-pocket cost for a new retainer at the orthodontist can run between $150 and $600, plus office visit costs.

The orthodontist isn’t the only place you can get a retainer, though. For cost-effective, high-quality retainers, visit JS Dental Lab

Our professional-grade retainers are fashioned the same way as those in the orthodontist’s office, but you can order the impression kit and have your retainer mold made right in your home starting at $125.

Caring For Your New Retainer

Now that you know the headache that goes into replacing a broken retainer, you want to take care of your new one. Whether it’s fixed or replaceable, follow your doctor’s instructions.

Using their guidance and the following tips, your new retainer stands a great chance of lasting quite a long time!

Taking Care of a Bonded Retainer

Fixed retainers are more straightforward. You can’t lose them, and you take care of them with proper oral hygiene habits. 

Clean these retainers — as well as your teeth — twice a day (in the morning and before bedtime). Use your electric toothbrush, floss threaders, or a water flosser to remove plaque and debris from around the composite bonds and wires. Brush with gentle pressure and from various angles to prevent breakage, and be sure to hit all of the tiny spaces, too.

Avoid eating sticky or hard foods, which can damage the retainer or pull the wires apart. When that happens, the permanent retainer loses its functionality, and your doctor needs to fix it before it leads to the misalignment of your teeth.

Tips to Care For Removable Retainers

Removable retainers, on the other hand, are a little more tricky. On top of generally taking care of your oral health, you need to keep up with your retainer’s hygiene, too.

Keep in mind that if you follow the instructions and wear your retainer every night and throughout the day, you are constantly exposing it to bacteria. 

While these microorganisms are essential to your mouth biome, that doesn’t mean you want them to over-thrive. Just as you clean your teeth daily to prevent excess bacteria from taking over, you should also clean your retainer.

Cleaning the Retainer

Daily cleaning is as simple as brushing the appliance with warm water and rinsing it. Let dry, then return it to its case. 

Weekly, soak the retainer in water with baking soda or give it a denture tablet rinse. Never use bleach, mouthwash, or toothpaste, as these chemicals can damage the plastic and harm your mouth.

For the best results, grab an ultrasonic cleaner from JS Dental Lab. This handy machine makes cleaning your retainer a breeze and is chemical-free. 

Simply add water to the fill line, drop in your retainer (and the case, if you want), turn it on, and let the high-powered ultrasonic bubbles do their work. This method removes even the tiniest microorganisms from every nook and cranny in your retainer, and you barely lift a finger.


Storing your removable retainer is an essential part of maintenance. Yes, you have a case, but it's important to keep the case and retainer away from heat and humidity. High temperatures and too much moisture can cause the material to warp and become deformed. 

If you carry your retainer with you, be mindful to avoid leaving it in the car, by heat vents, or in any overly warm places. Keep your case in a safe place at all times.

Stain Avoidance

Unlike other oral appliances, like mouth guards and night guards, many people wear their retainers all day. (Read more: Nightguard vs. Retainer: What’s the Difference?) Although you remove the appliance to eat and drink, you’re constantly putting it in and taking it out of your mouth without brushing. 

This movement can cause the retainer to become stained or food to attach to the plastic. Before you put your oral appliance back in its spot, rinse your mouth with water if possible.

It’s a quick and easy step that prevents staining and decreases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease from the extra food particles stuck on your retainer.

Keep Up With Your Orthodontic Treatment

Remember that it took months or years for your braces to shift your teeth into their new positions. It can also take years for them to settle in their straighter spots.

Without regular use of your retainer after braces, it’s easy for your teeth to shift back into their misaligned old places.

The obvious benefit of a permanent retainer is that you can’t forget to wear it, so your risk of teeth shifting again is lower. However, no matter what type of retainer you use, you should always keep up with your scheduled orthodontic visits.

Your doctor can monitor your teeth and watch for any slight movement that could be unnoticeable to you, then adjust your treatment plan to ensure you keep your straight teeth.


A damaged retainer doesn’t have to signal the end of your hard-earned straightened smile. In fact, it might not even mean you have to call your orthodontist and make another appointment to have your retainer fixed. 

If you break your removable retainer and can’t fix it on your own, check out JS Dental Lab’s at-home mail-order retainer kit. For less than what you’d pay for your second retainer at your doctor’s office, you can have a new, high-quality replacement delivered to your door without leaving your home!

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