Updated on February 8, 2024
7 min read

What Should You Do If You Lose Your Retainers?

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Wearing a retainer after orthodontic treatment is crucial. Once you have finished treatment with braces or clear aligners, your retainer helps keep your teeth in their new positions. Without it, your teeth are at risk of gradually moving out of alignment again.1,2

Young asian woman showing retainer after getting braces

Many people lose their retainers at some point. They’re small and easy to misplace. If you’ve lost your retainer, you aren’t the first to do so, and your dentist or orthodontist will be able to help.

However, it’s important to get a replacement as soon as possible. While your teeth aren’t in immediate danger of shifting out of alignment, the risk will increase the longer you wait.

What Immediate Steps Should I Take After Losing My Retainer?

If you lose your retainer, you should make an appointment to get a replacement as soon as possible. Contact your orthodontist to let them know you need a new retainer. If you no longer live near the orthodontist who did your orthodontic treatment, contact a new one.

Your other option is to get a custom retainer from an online vendor such as SportingSmiles, JS Dental Lab, or Chomper Labs. These companies offer retainers for nightwear and other types of mouthguards, and they’re often more affordable than they would be at a dental office.

In either case, it’s best to take the next step as soon as possible. Waiting even two weeks is enough to make your old retainer no longer fit comfortably. With enough time, your teeth may shift enough to be visibly misaligned again.

What If I Had Invisalign Treatment?

Invisalign offers a plan for four sets of Vivera retainers (to be changed every three months) for an annual fee. However, you’re not required to use these because you had Invisalign treatment.

If you run out or lose your last set of Vivera retainers, you can get a new clear retainer from an online seller for the same or lower price. 

What to Do While You Wait for Your New Retainer

If you’re getting a replacement retainer through your orthodontist’s office, they may provide you a temporary retainer while you wait. With an online seller, you may not have this option.

In the meantime, continue taking good care of your teeth. Brush and floss daily, be mindful of hard or crunchy foods, and avoid using your teeth for things other than chewing. Once you get your new retainer, start wearing it as soon as possible.

How Quickly Can Teeth Shift Without a Retainer?

Though you may not notice a difference, your teeth can begin shifting within just a few days without a retainer. Fortunately, this movement will be subtle and easily corrected once you resume wearing your retainer.

Even after several weeks or months, the teeth shifting can be so subtle you might not notice it, or they have moved enough that your retainer is painful to wear. Additionally, your retainer might not fit anymore at all, in which case you’ll need a new one anyway.

In general, your teeth are less likely to shift dramatically if:

  • Your orthodontic treatment needs were mild to begin with
  • You were treated as a teenager before your jaw was fully grown
  • You’ve worn your retainer consistently for several years

What are My Options for Replacing a Lost Retainer?

You have two basic options for replacing a lost retainer:

  • Getting a new one from your orthodontist ($100-$600) — Ideally, you would go to the same orthodontist who made you the original retainer. If this isn’t feasible, you can still contact another orthodontic office for a replacement retainer.
  • Purchasing one from an online vendor ($100-$200) — Several companies offer custom-made retainers for purchase online. They’ll mail you a dental impression kit, and once you’ve mailed it back, they can produce a custom retainer.

In either case, you’ll have to have new impressions taken of your teeth. These will ensure the retainer fits your teeth in their current positions (since they’re likely to have shifted at least a bit).

Will Insurance Cover a New Retainer?

Unfortunately, dental insurance usually doesn’t cover replacement retainers. However, some policies offer coverage for the first replacement or backup retainer.

Overall, it’s likely that you’ll have to pay out of pocket for your replacement retainer. For this reason, you may want to get your replacement retainer from an online seller. Their prices are at least slightly lower than what you’ll get at a dental office.

What if I End Up Finding My Old Retainer?

If you find your old retainer, you can continue wearing it. If it’s been only a day or two, you have nothing to worry about. If it’s been a few weeks, expect it to be uncomfortable for the first few days as your teeth readjust.

However, if you only find your retainer after several months or years, you will need a new one anyway. Your teeth are likely to have shifted enough to make the old retainer impossible to wear.

If you’ve already purchased a replacement retainer, talk to your orthodontist about what to do with the old one. If it hasn’t been long since you lost it, it may be worth keeping.

How Can I Prevent Losing My Retainer in the Future?

A good general rule is that if you aren’t wearing your retainer, it should be in its case. This makes it easier to keep track of.

It’s best to have a designated area for your retainer case and/or keep it with you when going out. This helps limit the number of places for your retainer to end up.

Wherever you store your retainer and case at home, it should ideally be:

  • In a location that’s easy for you to remember and access
  • Out of reach of pets and small children

More Reading

Common Questions on Lost Retainers

Is it common to lose a retainer?

Yes, retainers are a relatively common item to lose. They’re small, often transparent, and frequently removed. These qualities make them easy to misplace if you’re not careful.

How much is a new retainer?

A new retainer can cost $100 to over $600. The type, quality, and source of the retainer will all play a role in determining the cost.

To minimize unnecessary costs, consider investing in a custom retainer from an online retailer rather than through an orthodontic office.

Can I go a week without my retainer?

One week without your retainer is unlikely to cause any major issues. However, waiting any longer may make it painful to put your retainer back in.

This is especially likely if your orthodontic treatment took a long time because you had a lot of alignment issues to correct.

What happens if I go a month without my retainer?

If you go a month without wearing your retainer, it may no longer fit comfortably. However, if your alignment issues were minor, you might still be able to wear the same retainer after a month.

Your teeth are unlikely to shift in just one month, but they may shift enough to make your old retainer no longer fit well.

Can I stop wearing my retainer after several years?

Orthodontists often recommend wearing retainers indefinitely. You may need to wear it at least a few nights a week for life to prevent your teeth from shifting.

However, this depends to some extent on your age during orthodontic treatment and the extent of your original alignment issues.

If you had only mild orthodontic needs and wore braces for just a few months as a teenager, you may not need to wear a retainer forever. Talk to your orthodontist for advice.

Summary

If you’ve lost your retainer, you aren’t alone. Many people lose track of their removable retainers after orthodontic treatment.

However, it’s essential to act quickly to avoid new dental problems. If you don’t find your retainer within a few days, it’s best to start the process of having a new one made. Waiting too long could lead your teeth to shift out of alignment gradually.

How often and how long to wear your retainer are concerns that vary from person to person. Talk to your orthodontist about the best ways to keep your teeth straight for life. 

Last updated on February 8, 2024
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 8, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  3. Ledvinka, Jan. “Vacuum-formed retainers more effective than Hawley retainers.” Evidence-Based Dentistry, 2009.
  4. Ramazanzadeh, Baratali, et al. “The retention characteristics of Hawley and vacuum-formed retainers with different retention protocols.” Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, 2018.
  5. Molyneaux, Charlotte, et al. “Orthodontic retention and the role of the general dental practitioner.” British Dental Journal, 2021.
  6. Knaup, Isabel, et al. “Post-treatment Stability in Orthodontic Retention with Twistflex Retainers—Do Patients Benefit from Additional Removable Retainers?” Clinical Oral Investigations, 2022.
  7. Fu, Lara Moyu, et al. “Patient Compliance with Removable Orthodontic Retainers During Retention Phase: A Systematic Review.” Journal of the California Dental Association, 2023.
  8. Orthodontic Retainers.” SportingSmiles.
  9. Custom Clear Retainer.” JS Dental Lab.
  10. Retainer Night Guard for Teeth Grinding and Retention.” Chomper Labs.
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