how long do dental retainers last

Many of our customers want to know the answer to the great question: “How long are my dental retainers supposed to last?”

The lifespan of dental retainers can vary depending on several factors, including the type of retainer, how well you care for them, and how often you wear them.

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Here’s a general guideline for different types of dental retainers:

  1. Hawley Retainers: These are the most common type of removable retainers made of acrylic and a metal wire. With proper care, they can last several years, but they may need adjustments or replacements over time due to wear and tear. Some people may use them for 5-10 years or longer.
  2. Clear Retainers (Essix or Vivera): Clear retainers are also removable and made from a clear, plastic-like material. They are less durable than Hawley retainers and may need to be replaced more frequently, typically every 1-2 years.
  3. Permanent (Bonded) Retainers: These are thin wires that are bonded to the back of your front teeth. They are designed to be long-term solutions and can last for many years, possibly even a lifetime. However, they may require occasional maintenance or replacement if they break or become loose.

How do I make my retainers last longer?

  • Refrain from playing with the retainers. Do not chew or bite on them. Do not take them in and out excessively.
  • Wash your retainers daily. View this article for a thorough explanation of how to clean your retainers
  • Store your retainers in their original case when not in use
  • Deep clean your retainers. Consider a deep clean once every week or two. Denture cleaning tablets are highly effective for removing odors and discoloration. You can get a big box of them for $6 at Walgreens or CVS. Take a tablet out, put it in a glass of water and dip your retainers into the solution for the time stated on packaging.

Types of Retainers

There are typically two kinds of removable retainers.

Hawley Retainer

You’ve seen this one. After all, it’s the oldest and most durable type of retainer made. This is the Hawley Retainer. It has a metal bar across the front of the teeth and an acrylic or plastic palate. This retainer is removable, can be adjusted regularly and will last a very long time.

Essix Retainer

Essix dental retainers are molded from a stone cast of your teeth. From there, they’re trimmed and polished and delivered to the patient. The retainers snap into place and are worn to keep the teeth from shifting after orthodontic treatment. They’re removable, safe and effective.

Essix Plus Dental Retainers are a newer version of the standard Essix retainer.

These Essix Plus retainers are quickly becoming the preferred option among consumers. Reason being, is because these retainers are more durable than others. The manufacturers have an additional component added in to the material to make them withstand the effects of teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

It matters how they’re made.

Cutting the retainers straight across and not taking the time to scallop the retainers to the individuals’ dental anatomy can cause unnecessary pressure and even pain.

If you’re cracking or wearing through your existing dental retainers and suspect you may be grinding or clenching, you may want to consider Essix Plus Dental Retainers as your next set to purchase.

How long should I wear my retainers?

This is up to your orthodontist and should not be left to the internet to decide.

Your teeth are vulnerable to shifting after braces are removed. If you were to perform a quick Google search of “teeth shifted after braces were removed” you’ll see that all that hard work and thousands of dollars can be flushed down the toilet within a relatively short period of time.

Prevent teeth shifting. Wear your retainers.

-Every dentist ever.

How often should my dental retainers be replaced?

This is for you and/or your orthodontist to decide. If your retainers are cracking, splitting, wearing through etc, it may be time to consider a new set.

Signs you need to replace your dental retainers

  • Holes, cracking or splitting in the material. This can happen overtime from continuous wear or if you’re grinding and/or clenching on the material. The jagged plastic can cut your tongue or gums. The splitting in the material can jeopardize the fit.
  • No longer fitting well (e.g. too loose or warped). Avoid placing your retainers in a boiling pot of water or a dishwasher as the hot water can warp your retainers. Sometimes the retainers can lose their shape overtime. If they’re not fitting well anymore, consider ordering a new replacement set.
  • Green discoloration or white with calcium buildup. White spots are an indication of mineral buildup. This can damage your retainer, making it susceptible to cracking or breaking. Do not allow bacteria to develop on your retainers as this is not good for your oral health.

Rather than scheduling an appointment with your orthodontist and risk being charged $550+ for a new set of dental retainers, you can have your dental retainers replacement set sent right to your door for a fraction of the price. Sentinel Mouthguards has been making custom removable dental appliances for over 10 years. Our long standing team will work diligently and meticulously to create an excellent set of retainers for your unique dental anatomy.

How do we do it? Learn all about us and our “do it yourself” dental impression system TODAY!

How do I clean my retainers?

  • Brush your retainers daily with a soft toothbrush using a mild castile soap. Be sure to brush each tooth compartment in a circular fashion.
  • Rinse well with water.
  • Pat dry with a soft cloth.
  • Store your retainers in a ventilated mouth guard case

A set of retainers if properly taken care of can typically last 2 to 5 years. Pay attention to the quality and fit of your retainers. Are they becoming cloudy? Not fitting well?

Have a question about replacing either one or both of your retainers? Contact us!

Our team is available Monday thru Friday 9am to 5pm Eastern Time. Email or call customer service 1.888.317.0724


sentinel mouthguards author
Ashely Notarmaso

Ashely Notarmaso is the author behind the Sentinel Mouth Guard Blog. She is the CEO and founder of Sentinel Mouth Guards (Founded in 2012) Her long-time work in the dental mouth guard arena and her excellent ability to listen to customer concerns in this often contradictory field has laid the groundwork to explore night guard/mouth guard fabrication in-depth and address real concerns. With the help of her team, she has created a unique fabrication method that promises a great fitting custom oral appliance every time. Amazon’s choice for #1 mouth guard! Visit the online store

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