Congratulations, you finally made it!  Your orthodontic treatment is complete and your hardware has been removed – you’re finally free!  But are you really free?  Your freedom from braces and aligners comes with a price… A lifetime of retainer wear.

Your orthodontist gave you a parting gift:  A set of retainers that will keep your teeth straight and your smile beautiful.  Unfortunately, these retainers don’t work when they’re tucked away in a drawer or under your bed.

We know you vowed to be good. To wear it nightly, and you swore to yourself that your teeth would stay this way forever. Until one night, you’re up late and forget to pop it in, then you go on vacation and leave it sitting on your nightstand. If you’ve forgotten to wear it for a night or two, don’t panic – yet. While your teeth may move overnight, mild changes can be corrected with routine retainer wear.  But more than two days without your retainers, and you might be in for a lengthier correction!

Make your retainer routine less of a challenge and make sure you really do retain that beautiful smile with these helpful tips from CAO orthodontists.


Use your tech

The easiest way to set reminders for yourself is with your phone or tablet, but many of us learn to ignore alerts that appear every day at the same, inconvenient time.

To avoid falling into that trap, set the alert for a time that you’re not busy, and keep your retainer in a location that is easily accessible at that time.

An effective time could be when you’re winding down for bed and about to brush your teeth.  And if you forget one night, make it up by wearing your retainer the next day.


Write a note

Go old school and leave yourself a sticky note on your monitor at work, on your front door, or even on your bathroom mirror.

If your kids are having trouble remembering to clean their retainer, or remove it before eating, put a bright and colorful note in their lunch or snack bag, so they see the reminder at just the right moment.

Many orthodontists give out window clings that can be fixed to a mirror or window, so be sure to ask for one of those on your next visit.


Rinse and repeat

Develop a routine of inserting or removing your retainer and storing it in the same spot, at the same time every day. Once you’ve done this consistently for a few weeks, you’ll likely notice if and when you forget a step in your daily regimen as it’s become a habit.

Always remember the retainer golden rule – if it’s not in your mouth, it should be in its case.


Add to your routine

There are things you do every day, without fail, so associating your retainer with things like brushing your teeth, picking up your keys or setting your alarm can help you to remember to use it.


Enlist help

Getting someone else to remember your retainer isn’t a very considerate move, but making sure another person is aware of how important it is for you to wear it can be an added buffer to your own memory.

Asking your children to remind each other about their retainers in exchange for a reward can be a great incentive and might give you one less thing to worry about!


Moms and dads – do a teeth check

Some CAO orthodontists recommend that parents look at their children’s teeth once a week, say every Sunday night, to check for any movement.  The teeth most likely to relapse are the lower front teeth, so checking them weekly means you’ll be able to identify any issues early on and make an appointment with your orthodontist if needed.


Coming to an office near you

At UCSF, they are developing special Bluetooth-enabled retainer sensors that can detect wear and sync with a mobile phone, meaning wearers will get automatic reminders if they forget to pop their retainer in.  Ask your orthodontist about this next time you see them!


We hope these tips help to make remembering your retainer less of a worry and more part of your daily routine. Have you had success with any of these methods, or do you have a technique that ensures you never forget to put your retainer in? Let us know in the comments.