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How to Fix a Broken Retainer

Julia Willcox

Written by Julia Willcox

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If you find yourself with a cracked retainer, avoid the urge to embark on DIY repairs and follow these crucial steps for proper care:

  1. Remove the retainer: If you are wearing the retainer take it out handling it with care to prevent further complications. 
  2. Store in a safe container: After removing it, place the retainer in a secure container to protect it until you can seek professional assistance. It it crucial to store it properly and keep it clean while you wait for your appointment.
  3. Contact orthodontist/dentist: Reach out to your orthodontist or dentist as soon as possible so you can schedule an appointment to choose the best solution (replacement or repair.)
  4. Follow the orthodontist’s advice: When reaching out to your orthodontist, follow the recommendations provided by them for the best course of action.
  5. Attend the appointment: Ensure you attend the scheduled appointment to fix the retainer as soon as possible, as there’s a risk that your teeth may shift back to their previous position.
  6. Wear your retainer: While waiting for your appointment, if the retainer is not broken into pieces or by half, wear it. As mentioned before, wearing your retainer helps prevent your teeth from shifting back.

Why Retainers Get Cracked?

Before discussing how to fix or what to do if a retainer is cracked, let’s first understand what leads retainers to crack.

  • Normal wear and tear: Retainers, whether they are removable or fixed, are subject to normal wear and tear over time. The constant pressure from your teeth can gradually weaken the material, causing it to crack.
  • Biting or chewing hard objects: Accidentally biting down on hard objects like ice, pens, or fingernails can exert excessive force on the retainer, leading to cracks or fractures.
  • Improper cleaning: Some forms of damage to a plastic or Essix retainer can result from improper cleaning of the retainer. If you feel as though this might be the case with your retainer, you should look further into how to clean retainers
  • Incorrect handling: Mishandling your retainer can also lead to cracks. For removable retainers, dropping them or applying too much force when inserting or removing them can cause structural damage.
  • Changes in temperature: Extreme temperature changes, such as exposing your retainer to hot liquids or leaving it in a freezing environment, can weaken the material and contribute to cracking.
  • Grinding or clenching teeth: Individuals who grind or clench their teeth (bruxism) may inadvertently put excessive pressure on their retainers, leading to cracks or deformation.
  • Natural material breakdown: Over time, the materials used in retainers can naturally degrade, making them more prone to cracking or breaking.

Understanding the potential causes of retainer cracks can help you take preventive measures and handle your retainer with care to extend its lifespan.

 

Broken Retainer: What to Do?

If you’ve reached for your retainer and realized that it’s cracked or broken, there are some crucial steps that you should follow:

  1. Stop wearing the broken retainer if they don’t fit correctly, but if they do, keep wearing them reducing the wear time.
  2. Store the broken pieces in a safe container to take them to your orthodontist and, also, avoid further damage.
  3. Contact your orthodontist or dentist immediately, as they will give you more instructions on how to proceed and also schedule an appointment to discuss the replacement options.
  4. You should not try to fix the retainer yourself under ANY circumstances.
  5. Follow any temporary measures advised by your orthodontist.
  6. Don’t miss your dental appointment as by not going you will worsen the issue. As more time passes without wearing your aligners, the possibility of your teeth shifting increases.
  7. Receive the new or repaired retainer.

As Dr. Jono emphasizes in the following video, it is CRUCIAL to call your orthodontist or a dental professional to fix your retainer. He also highlights that you should still wear the retainers and gives tips on preventing your aligners from breaking even more.

In the video, he describes the steps you should follow when this happens and what your orthodontist will do in more detail. 

How to Recognize Cracks in a Retainer?

Recognizing cracks in a retainer is crucial to ensure its effectiveness and prevent potential dental issues. Here’s a guide on how to identify cracks:

  1. Visual Inspection: During regular cleanings, carefully inspect the aligners for cracks or fractures. Additionally, hold the retainer up to a light source to reveal cracks as shadows or changes in translucency.
  2. Feel for Irregularities: Use your sense of touch to identify cracks by running your fingers over the aligners. Also, pay attention to any sudden changes in tightness or looseness while wearing them, and be alert to unexpected discomfort or pain.
  3. Listen for Sounds: Finally, during the retainer’s removal or insertion, be attentive to any clicking sounds, as they may indicate a structural issue.

Broken Retainer Removal

Your replacement retainer will likely incur an additional cost as most forms of dental insurance do not cover it, but even that would be cheaper than the alternative: having to undergo orthodontic treatment again. If you do not fix your broken retainer or get a new retainer in a timely fashion, your teeth will begin to drift back to how they were prior to your initial orthodontic treatment. If this is the case, you may need to get braces or invisible aligners once again and pay for this treatment all over again.

How to Fix a Cracked Retainer?

Having covered the basics of fixing a cracked retainer, let’s now explore more specific tips based on the type of aligner you have—whether it’s the classic plastic retainer or the modern Invisalign.

How to fix a broken plastic retainer?

First and foremost, you should not attempt to fix a broken plastic retainer yourself.

  • If your retainer is, in fact, broken into separate pieces, you should not attempt in any way to glue those pieces back together as you may accidentally fix it incorrectly and harm the material of the retainer or cause eventual harm to your teeth themselves. 
  • You should approach a broken plastic retainer almost in the same way you would react to a lost retainer– by contacting your orthodontist to get a retainer replacement if it is irreparable or get it fixed by them. Dental professionals have the tools and expertise to assess the extent of damage to your retainer.

How to fix a broken Invisalign retainer?

Regarding how to approach fixing a broken Invisalign retainer, do it similarly to how you would handle the repair of any other broken plastic retainer.

  • Do not attempt to repair your cracked Invisalign retainer yourself. As discussed above, you may inadvertently cause damage to either your retainer or to your teeth. Internet searches for how to fix a clear plastic retainer, in this case, might provide false or misleading information, and it is always best to defer to the expertise of your orthodontist.
  • If it is an Invisalign retainer that is used during the treatment process that is damaged, you might proceed differently. These retainers, or aligner trays, are typically changed every two weeks. Therefore, the timing of the broken retainer within your treatment timeline might affect how you react. If the retainer breaks early in the two-week treatment phase, you might be able to go back to the previous retainer. Similarly, if it breaks later in the treatment phase, you might be able to move forward to the next retainer set without getting your current one fixed or replaced.
broken retainer wear the next one
how to fix a broken retainer
  • You should consult an Invisalign-certified orthodontist if you are unsure of how to proceed, as they will be able to tell you whether or not you will need to come into the office to get your retainer replaced or fixed, so the first step is to look for “the best orthodontist near me” in Google and find the best Invisalign professional in your area. 

And, if you wear permanent retainers, active retainers or any other type of retainers instead of plastic ones, you should do the same stated here: call your dentists. 

How to Fix a Cracked Retainer at Home

As discussed in the previous sections, you should not try to fix a broken retainer at home as it can cause further damage to it and endanger your oral health. These are some of the crucial reasons why seeking professional assistance from your orthodontist is essential for the proper evaluation and repair of a broken retainer.

  • Common household adhesives are not medical-grade and therefore should not be used on plastic retainers. Using such adhesives can introduce harmful substances to your mouth and teeth, potentially causing irritation, allergic reactions, or other adverse effects on your oral health.
  • Orthodontic treatment requires precision and you are not a dental professional. Attempting to fix the aligners by yourself can lead to unintended consequences as irritation, discomfort, and potential complications in your orthodontic treatment.
  • Besides, attempting to fix aligners at home could void any warranty or guarantee provided by the orthodontic provider, leaving you responsible for replacement costs.

How to Prevent Cracks in Retainers?

Preventing cracks in retainers is essential for maintaining their longevity as well as their effectiveness. Here are some tips to help prevent cracks in retainers:

Avoid Chewing
Avoid Chewing

There's a reason you should never eat with aligners. When you chew, you can cause the aligners to break by stressing the material to hard and sticky foods. Besides, it can be pretty uncomfortable to eat with them.

Regular Cleaning
Regular Cleaning

Daily cleaning of your retainers not only prevents the accumulation of bacteria, which can cause unpleasant odors and tastes, but also safeguards against potential breakage of the aligners. Also, avoid using hot water or harsh chemicals, as they can also cause aligners' breakage..

Keep Away from Heat
Keep Away from Heat

Heat can weaken the aligners' material and lead to cracks and deformities caused by exposure to high temperatures. Avoid hot water when cleaning the aligners and direct sunlight, or heated surfaces when storing them.

Remove During Physical Activity
Remove During Physical Activity

Similar to how chewing with your aligners on can lead to breakage, engaging in physical activity may cause damage due to impact or excessive pressure. If you spend a considerable amount of time exercising daily, we recommend using a mouthguard instead.

What not to Do with a Cracked Retainer?

Upon realizing that your retainer is broken, the initial reaction might be to panic and attempt a DIY fix to avoid paying for a new one. However, it’s crucial to avoid certain common mistakes in such situations. Here are three things you should NOT DO if your retainer or aligner is broken.

  • Not to wear the aligners: The proper functioning of your retainer is dependent on the correct fit and rigidity of the retainer, so if either of these functions are compromised, your retainer will not work as intended.
  • Apply glue in an attempt to fix your retainer: The use of superglue or other common household glues is not recommended as mentioned in the article. These adhesives are not medical grade or meant to be on something that will be in your mouth, so the chemicals in them have the potential to enter your body and potentially cause harm. These chemicals could harm both your oral health and pose a general risk, so it is best to err on the side of caution.
  • Throw out your cracked retainer: Your orthodontists will likely want to see the extent of the damage themselves, and if the damage is not severe, they may be able to repair the retainer. The cost of fixing a broken or damaged retainer is likely much less than the cost of having to buy a brand new replacement retainer. 

What to Do if my Permanent Retainer Broke?

If your permanent retainer broke, you should follow the same as if it had been a plastic retainer that broke:

  1. Contact a dental professional: Try to contact your orthodontist as soon as possible to make an appointment to go into the office as quickly as possible to avoid your teeth from shifting and fix the problem promptly.
  2. Seek medical help if needed: Given that a permanent retainer is bonded directly to your teeth, damage to this type of retainer tends to be slightly more serious than damage to a removable plastic retainer. Metal parts have more potential for harm than a typical plastic retainer. If your permanent retainer is broken in a way that results in pain or swelling due to metal pieces cutting into your mouth or gums, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.
  3. Do not try to DIY: Regarding trying to fix the permanent retainer at home, do not do it. Just like with removable retainers, it can lead to serious oral health issues.

How To Make Retainers Fit Again

Another situation that can affect your alignment treatment is finding out that your aligner doesn’t fit anymore. This can happen due to various causes and, therefore, have different approaches. These are the most common:

  1. Your retainers don’t fit because you didn’t wear them: if you haven’t worn your retainers for a long time, your teeth have probably shifted. If that happen, do not try to put your aligners on, as it will cause damage and call your orthodontist as soon as possible.  
  2. Your retainers don’t fit because they have a deformed shape: as mentioned before, things like heat or inappropriate storage can cause deformities in your retainers. If that happens to you, remove your retainers and don’t wear them. Then, call your orthodontist and explain to them the problem; they will give you an appointment to solve the problem promptly.
  3. Your aligners don’t fit, but you don’t know why: if the trays that don’t fit are your aligners (the ones that you wear during your treatment plan) instead of your retainers, the causes can vary. However, the first thing you should do is contact your orthodontist and keep wearing the previous set of aligners to prevent your teeth from shifting. 
Permanent retainer broke
how to fix a broken invisalign retainer

FAQ

What causes a retainer to crack?

A retainer can crack due to several reasons, including age, wear and tear, improper use, accidental damage, and exposure to extreme temperatures or pressure.

How long can you go with a broken retainer?

It is not recommended to go without wearing a broken retainer for any length of time, as it can lead to teeth shifting back to their original position. It's best to get the retainer repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

Can I still wear my cracked retainer?

It depends on the severity of the crack. If the crack is small and does not affect the fit or function of the retainer, it may still be wearable. However, it's best to consult with an orthodontist or dentist to determine if the retainer needs repair or replacement.

Can I superglue my retainer?

No, it is not recommended to superglue a retainer as it can damage the material and compromise its function. It's best to consult with an orthodontist or dentist to determine the appropriate repair method for a broken retainer.

How much is it to replace a retainer?

The cost of replacing a retainer can vary depending on the type of retainer, the complexity of the replacement, and the geographic location. In general, the cost can range from $150 to $400 or more. It's best to consult with an orthodontist or dentist to get an accurate estimate of the cost of retainer replacement.

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