Your braces are off and you’re now transitioning to a new phase of your straight teeth journey: retainers! All is well and good until you try to take it out for the first time. Many of my patients panic because they can’t get it off, which is why I help them practice a few times in our office.
Not all patients experience this, as it depends on the anatomy of their teeth and the thickness and material of their retainer. New patients go through this experience, but this can happen if you’ve been wearing your retainer for a while as well. This is usually due to a slight shift in your teeth’s position, new dental work, or even simply forgetting to put it in for a while.
If your retainer is stuck, first of all, don’t panic. It’s a thin piece of plastic and you will eventually wiggle it off. In this article, you’ll learn exactly how. Worst case scenario, you can always go to your dentist’s or orthodontist’s office and ask them for help.
How to Remove a Stuck Retainer
If you’re dealing with a stuck retainer, you’re probably wearing an Essix retainer right now. The Essix retainer is manufactured by essentially being sucked onto a model of your teeth, which is why it can create a vacuum inside your mouth as well.
Most Essix retainers are thicker than your regular aligners, 0.8 to 1mm thick, which can make them more rigid and difficult to take off. But don’t worry, you’ll soon become a retainer pro with some practice (and hopefully no broken nails).
Use Your Fingers
When attempting to pull the Essix retainer out, always start from the back and alternate sides. Here’s exactly how to do it:
Step 1: Use the pads of your fingers, not the nail. It can be tempting to hook onto the sides of the retainer, but this can backfire, and you can end up with a broken nail. Instead, using the pads of your fingers will cover more surface.
Step 2: Start from the back on one side. Focus on the last molar, use two hands and press it in between your index fingers. Pull down and out for top retainers and up and out for bottom retainers. You will see a segment of the retainer detaching from your teeth.
Step 3: Repeat on the other side pressing in the same way with your fingers. Alternate between sides.
If you feel like your fingers don’t have enough grip, you can wear latex or nitrile gloves or use a tissue to make the surface less slippery. Eventually, the retainer should come off if you pull hard enough and at the right angle.
Don’t be afraid if you hear any popping sounds or if it seems like you’re pulling too hard. As long as nothing hurts, your teeth will be fine. Don’t pull the retainer at too much of an angle to avoid distortion and breaking. Progressively loosen it out.
Use a Tool
Sometimes, the retainer can be stubborn, and using your fingers just won’t work. In that case, you might want to get a specialized tool to assist you. Besides, it’s more hygienic not to use your fingers anyway, so carrying a tool inside your retainer case can be an easy way to prevent any retainer struggles when you need to take it out.
You can easily order a clear aligner removal tool on Amazon or check out the super practical PUL tool that also has a chewie to help place the retainer all the way in.
With these tools, you can hook the retainer from both the inside and outside of your back teeth, and it should come right out. My advice is to start from inside your mouth and work your way from there, but usually, the retainer just pops right out.
Careful not to scratch your gum with a clear aligner removal tool, it can be quite sharp. Another thing to avoid is using sharp objects around the house to dislodge the stuck retainer – you risk hurting your gums and cracking the retainer.
Do Retainers Get Easier to Take Off?
Getting your retainers on and off easily is a matter of practice. Just like anything new, there’s often a learning curve, and taking off your retainer is no different. As you continue to use the retainer, your technique will improve, and you’ll soon be able to easily remove it.
Another point to keep in mind is that your teeth might initially feel a little tight with the new device, but they’ll loosen up over time. This is because, soon after taking your braces off, your teeth may be still shifting during the day, but as they become more accustomed to it, they’ll not only feel more comfortable but also make the retainer easier to take off. So, be patient with yourself, and don’t get frustrated. It’s all part of the process!
Laslty, the plastic material of the retainer will also loosen up with wear. As you use the retainer more, it will gradually become more pliable, making it easier for you to take it off. This is another reason why it’s essential to follow your orthodontist’s instructions for retainer wear. Consistent use not only helps maintain your teeth alignment but also aids in making the retainer more comfortable and user-friendly.
In case you are still struggling to remove your retainer after a while, don’t hesitate to ask your orthodontist for assistance. They can provide you with tips and tricks on how to safely and easily take off your retainer. If the tightness doesn’t go away after a few weeks, perhaps it’s time to get a new retainer, or even switch to Hawley or permanent retainers.
In the end, remember that your retainer is your teeth’s best friend at this stage, so give it a little TLC. If it gets stuck, don’t panic, keep calm, and gently wiggle away or use a special aligner removal tool to hook it off. Also, consider setting a reminder to clean and maintain your retainer regularly to prevent funky odors.
Don’t stress too much, give yourself some time, and soon enough, you’ll master the art of removing your retainer with ease!