Ouch! Why Do My Retainers Hurt My Gums?

Retainers are super important for keeping your teeth straight and your smile looking beautiful after orthodontic treatment.

But wearing them can sometimes be a real pain…literally! It’s not unusual for people to feel some level of discomfort or even pain in their gums when they wear retainers.

This discomfort can range from mild irritation to severe pain, which can be really concerning and uncomfortable.

This article will look closely at why retainers can cause gum pain and provide some useful advice on how to cope with it.

Whether you’re just starting out with retainers or you’ve been wearing them for a while, understanding the causes and solutions for gum discomfort can help you keep your smile healthy and comfortable.

Why Do Retainers Hurt My Gums?

Initial Adjustment Period:

When you first start wearing a retainer, it’s normal to experience some discomfort. This is because your gums and teeth need time to adjust to the new appliance.

The retainer exerts pressure on your teeth, which can cause temporary gum sensitivity and pain.

This discomfort is usually a part of the adjustment process and typically subsides within a few days as your mouth gets used to the retainer.

However, if the pain persists beyond a week, it’s advisable to consult with your orthodontist or dentist.

Poorly Fitted Retainers:

One of the primary reasons why retainers can cause gum pain is if they are poorly fitted. Ill-fitting retainers can put excessive pressure on your gums, leading to soreness and pain.

This is often the result of a retainer that is too tight, too loose, or not properly contoured to the shape of your mouth.

If your retainer is causing discomfort, it’s important to consult with your orthodontist or dentist to ensure that it fits properly.

They may need to make adjustments or provide you with a new retainer that fits better.

Allergic Reaction:

In some cases, the materials used in retainers can cause an allergic reaction in certain individuals. This can result in gum sensitivity, redness, and swelling.

Common materials used in retainers include acrylic and metal, and while these are generally safe for most people, some may have an allergic reaction to them.

If you suspect that you may be allergic to the materials in your retainer, it’s crucial to seek professional advice.

Your orthodontist or dentist can determine if an allergy is the cause of your gum pain and recommend alternative materials for your retainer.

Poor Oral Hygiene:

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial when wearing retainers. If you neglect proper oral care, bacteria can accumulate around the retainer and irritate your gums.

This can lead to gum sensitivity and pain. To prevent this, make sure to brush your teeth thoroughly and clean your retainer regularly.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste to clean your retainer gently.

Additionally, consider using an antimicrobial mouthwash to further reduce bacteria in your mouth.


Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can also contribute to gum pain when wearing retainers. People who grind their teeth may experience increased pressure on their gums, leading to discomfort.

This condition often occurs unconsciously during sleep, making it difficult to control without intervention.

If you suspect that you grind your teeth, it’s important to discuss this with your orthodontist or dentist.

They may recommend a nightguard or other measures to protect your teeth and gums while wearing a retainer.

Alleviating Gum Pain from Retainers

Now that we have explored the reasons why retainers can hurt your gums, let’s discuss some tips on how to alleviate the discomfort:

Take a Break:

If your gums are feeling sore or sensitive, take a short break from wearing your retainer. Give your gums some time to rest and recover before putting the retainer back in.

However, it’s important to consult with your orthodontist or dentist before making any changes to your retainer-wearing schedule.

They can provide guidance on how long of a break you can take without risking your teeth shifting.

Use Dental Wax:

Dental wax can provide a protective barrier between your retainer and your gums, reducing friction and alleviating gum pain.

Apply a small amount of dental wax to the areas of your retainer that are causing discomfort. This can help to cushion your gums and make wearing the retainer more comfortable.

Dental wax is readily available at most pharmacies and is easy to apply.

Rinse with Saltwater:

Saltwater rinses can help to soothe gum pain and reduce inflammation.

Mix half a teaspoon of salt with eight ounces of warm water and rinse your mouth with the solution for about 30 seconds.

Spit out the saltwater and repeat a few times a day as needed. This simple home remedy can provide temporary relief from gum pain.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relief:

If the gum pain from your retainer is persistent and severe, consider taking over-the-counter pain relief medication.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help to reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort.

However, it’s important to follow the instructions on the packaging and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Consult with Your Orthodontist or Dentist:

If the gum pain from your retainer persists or worsens despite trying the above tips, it’s important to consult with your orthodontist or dentist.

They can examine your mouth, assess the fit of your retainer, and provide further guidance on how to alleviate the discomfort.

They may recommend adjustments to your retainer or provide alternative solutions to address the issue.


Experiencing gum pain when wearing retainers is uncommon, but addressing the issue is important to ensure your comfort and oral health.

By understanding the reasons why retainers can hurt your gums and following the tips provided, you can alleviate the discomfort and continue to enjoy the benefits of a straight and beautiful smile.

Remember to consult with your orthodontist or dentist if you have any concerns or questions about your retainer or gum sensitivity.

Your oral health is a crucial part of your overall well-being, and taking any discomfort or pain seriously is important.

Does a New Retainer May Hurt at First?

Getting a new retainer is key to keeping your teeth in their fixed positions, but it can cause soreness or even ulcers when you first start wearing it.

To ease the discomfort, try taking some OTC pain relief, using cold compresses, or sticking some orthodontic wax on to act as a barrier.

You could also swish around with warm saltwater and keep good oral hygiene. Start with shorter retainer wearing times and slowly increase the duration.

If the pain persists or is severe, it’s best to call your dentist for possible adjustments.

Patience and consistent wear are the keys to a comfortable retainer experience, essential for your orthodontic treatment to be successful.

How to Make Retainers More Comfortable?

If you’re wearing a retainer, it’s important to follow a few tips to make sure it’s comfortable.

Make sure to clean it every day with mild soap and lukewarm water, and avoid hot water which can change its shape.

Also, wear it consistently because it’ll take some time to get adjusted to. Visit your orthodontist regularly; if it’s still uncomfortable, you can adjust it.

If it’s irritating, use orthodontic wax to create a barrier between it and your mouth. Staying hydrated also helps, and start off with a soft diet while you get used to it.

Finally, practice speaking and eating with it in to make it more natural.

Can I Stop Wearing My Retainer If It Hurts?

Wearing a retainer is an integral part of the orthodontic process, especially after braces, so your teeth stay aligned.

It’s normal to experience some discomfort or even mild pain when you start wearing it, especially when you first get it or after it’s adjusted. If the discomfort persists, talk to your orthodontist to make sure it fits correctly.

To help with the pain, follow the usage instructions they give you, keep it clean, and take over-the-counter pain relievers.

If you stop wearing your retainer without consulting your orthodontist, your teeth may shift back to their original positions and it could be more uncomfortable when you try to put it back in.

Your orthodontist or dentist can help you figure out the best way to keep your orthodontic treatment going.

Source: Youtube Channel (SportingSmiles)

Should I wear my retainer if my gums are swollen?

Swollen gums can be a sign of a variety of issues, so it’s important to find out how this relates to wearing a retainer and what to do about it.

Common causes of swollen gums include gingivitis, poor oral hygiene, irritation from the retainer, and infection.

If you’re dealing with swollen gums, it’s important to talk to your orthodontist to see if the retainer is causing the issue.

You should also make sure to keep up with your oral hygiene and may even need to take a break from wearing the retainer for a while.

Saltwater rinses can help to soothe your gums. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your orthodontist to decide if you should be wearing the retainer while your gums are swollen.

Make sure to keep your orthodontist in the loop to ensure the success of your orthodontic treatment.

Understanding “Settling” and Its Impact on Retainers?

When it comes to legal matters, it’s essential to understand the different terms and processes that come with it.

One of them is ‘settling,’ which is basically an agreement reached between parties without going to court. It involves negotiation and compromises to find common ground.

Settling can have an impact on your retainer, which is the fee you pay to your lawyer. It’s used to cover their services and could change depending on the terms of the settlement.

You should understand your retainer agreement in case you’re entitled to a refund or remaining balance after reaching an agreement.

Knowing the implications of settling can help you make the best decisions for your case and finances.

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Dr. Ahtsham

I am a dentist. I am working hard to keep this blog updated for those suffering from tooth pain. It is my goal to make this blog the source for all information regarding tooth pain. Feel free to contact me if you are suffering from toothache.

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