Why Does My Retainer Hurt My Gums?

After finally getting your braces removed, having to wear a retainer can seem like a bit of a hassle. Early on you’ll need to wear them almost all the time, only taking them out to eat, but eventually you can simply wear them while you sleep each night.

While retainers are beneficial and necessary for keeping your teeth straight after having braces, they can also hurt. It’s usually a dull aching pain, but don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal early on.

While annoying, retainers are essential to keeping your teeth aligned after having braces. Your teeth have a sort of memory, and will gradually shift back to the way they were over time. Retainers help prevent that from happening, eventually building a new memory into your teeth so that they stay the way you want them to.

Since your teeth are held in place by ligaments, they have some elasticity to them and will try to snap back to their old position. Just like braces could be a bit painful as you got used to them (especially after adjustments), retainers are the same way. Once your mouth gets used to your retainer it’ll be a lot less uncomfortable.

What Are Possible Causes of Your Retainer Being Painful?

There are a few reasons your retainer might cause you pain. The general tightness you feel from wearing your retainer is due to the pressure your retainer puts on the teeth and connective tissue where the teeth rest in the mandible and maxilla.

Since retainers are designed to resist the snapback of those elastic tissues, the resistance is going to cause a little bit of discomfort. If you are wearing a retainer regularly and not just overnight, this soreness generally lasts 4-5 days.

If you feel more specific pain, like rough, sharp, or sore spots where the retainer rests against your mouth, there’s a chance that there could be something wrong with your retainer.

If your retainer breaks or isn’t fitted properly, it can rub up against the gum and teeth, causing abrasions and sores which can be harmful to your gums. In this case, you would want to make an appointment with your orthodontist to have your retainer either repaired or adjusted to better fit your mouth.

Lastly, if you feel a sharp stabbing pain like a part of the retainer is stabbing into your gum, it could be that one of the metal wires has come loose or broken, causing the metal to stab into your gum. This can cause sores and open wounds, risking infection. You should see your orthodontist and have your retainer fixed if you feel any sharp pain while wearing your retainer.

When Should You Contact Your Orthodontist About The Pain?

There are two main circumstances you should make an appointment with your orthodontist about pain when wearing your retainer. You should only feel sore for about 4-5 days from starting to use your retainer.

If your mouth still feels consistently sore after over one week of use, it could be a sign that your retainer isn’t fitted properly. If the soreness isn’t going away over time, contact your orthodontist about seeing why your retainer is still hurting your mouth.

Read More: Should I Wear My Retainer If My Gums Are Bleeding?

The other reason you should contact your orthodontist is if you feel specific pain while wearing your retainer. Specific pain like stabbing, rubbing, or sore spots is a clear sign that something is wrong with your retainer.

It could be due to a stray wire, improper alignment, or if your retainer is broken. You should see your orthodontist right away to get your retainer fixed as a broken retainer can cause more damage the longer you use it.

The types of pain can also be dependant on the kind of retainer you have. Removable retainers are generally more common, and since you aren’t going to wear them 24/7, it can take longer for your mouth to adjust to them. Permanent retainers are affixed to your teeth, and while they are uncomfortable at first, your mouth adjusts to them a bit more quickly than removable retainers.

Your tongue brushing up against the wire can cause some discomfort or soreness on your tongue, and while they last longer than removable retainers in many cases, you’ll need to make a trip to your orthodontist to fix them if it does happen to break. Since you can’t take a permanent retainer out if it breaks, you’ll want to make an appointment early to minimize the pain and damage to your mouth from being poked by the stray wire.

How Can I Fight The Pain At Home?

There are plenty of ways to help ease soreness caused by your retainer. While the pain shouldn’t be too unbearable, pain relievers like Tylenol or Ibuprophen can help alleviate the pain if it’s becoming too distracting or if you’re especially sensitive to pain. You can also use cold food and drinks to help numb the area, like ice pops and cold juices. You can even suck on an ice cube if you prefer something you can just roll around in your mouth.


At the end of the day, your retainer is going to make your gums sore for a few days after you start using it. This pain might last longer if you’re only using your retainer overnight since your mouth isn’t going to fully adjust to your retainer like it would if you were to only remove your retainer to eat.

Some pain is normal, but if you feel any sharp pain, unusual soreness, or open sores from abrasions caused by the retainer, make an appointment with your orthodontist to have your retainers adjusted as soon as possible.

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