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How do you know when to replace a retainer? Here’s a look at the six most common signs.

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1. There Are Cracks

A common sign that it’s time to replace your retainer is the presence of cracks and dents. Cracks and dents take away the structural strength your retainer needs to keep your teeth aligned properly. The longer you wait to replace your retainer, the larger these cracks and dents become and the more prone your teeth are to shifting. Replace yours as soon as you notice cracks.

2. It Looks or Feels Warped

If you’ve ever put your retainer in the dishwasher, you aren’t the only one. It’s a scenario that orthodontists are very familiar with. If you’ve done this in the past, you know what happens to your retainer when cleaning with hot water — it warps and doesn’t keep your teeth aligned anymore. It may even shift your teeth into the wrong positions. Soaking your retainer in cleaner with high alcohol content, like mouthwash, can cause warping, too.

3. It’s Starting to Feel Loose

Repeatedly taking your retainer out and putting it back in will cause wear over time. It’s a natural part of wearing one. If you notice your retainer feeling loose, it doesn’t mean your teeth are shifting. Instead, it’s an indication it’s time to replace your retainer.

A loose retainer doesn’t have the structural integrity to keep your teeth aligned. Keep your teeth from shifting by getting your retainer replaced as soon as possible.

4. You Notice Lots of Calcium Buildup

Your retainer is susceptible to the same bacteria that live in your mouth. Over 700 species of microbes — bacteria, fungus and more — exist in your mouth. Some of these bacteria form plaque. When you don’t get rid of the plaque, it can harden into tartar, a buildup of calcium.

Over time, it’s natural for there to be some level of calcium buildup, which looks like a whiteish or yellowish film. It’s most commonly found in hard-to-clean spaces on your retainer. Calcium buildup can irritate your gums, cause bad breath and lead to gum disease or tooth loss. These conditions prevent you from properly wearing your retainer. Aim to replace yours when you notice a lot of this buildup.

5. It Smells Bad

Your retainer may begin to smell bad over time. As mentioned, your mouth is home to hundreds of different microbe species, which your retainer is also susceptible to. You may notice a bad smell coming from your retainer after a long night’s rest or if you forget to clean it for a few days. That’s normal. However, if you notice a bad smell that won’t go away no matter how many times you clean your retainer, it may be the early signs of calcium buildup — which may mean your retainer’s lifespan is almost up.

6. You Lost It

Look, things happen. In the years following your orthodontic treatment, you’ll probably move around a few times or experience the occasional scatterbrain. It’s common for orthodontic patients to misplace their retainers. If you do lose your retainer, contact your orthodontist right away and get a new one. The faster you get a new retainer, the less time your teeth have to shift. If you get your new retainer and find your old one, store it away and continue wearing your new one.

Request an appointment to order a fresh pair of retainers

Three simple steps to order your new retainers:

1. Fill out this appointment request form and wait for AllCare customer service associate’s call to set up an  appointment;

2. Come for your appointment and have new records (i.e., 3D iTero intra-oral scanning) taken by AllCare’s imaging specialists;

3. Pick up your new retainers in 7-10 business day.

AllCare Orthodontic Center location 842 W. 31st Street, Chicago, IL 60608 (Free parking) If you have any questions, please contact us at 312-804-8304 or email

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