Getting a new retainer is like getting a new pair of shoes. When you first get your new retainer, no matter what type it is, it may take you—and your tongue—a while to get used to it. Sometimes, the edges of new retainers are sharp or rough and this can lead to irritation and even canker sores (ulcers). However, though you may be tempted to, do not see this as a reason to stop wearing your retainer. Otherwise, your teeth will begin to shift back to their original position, setting you back weeks if not months.

Instead, depending on the type of retainer, there are certain things you can do to make your retainers more comfortable.

Removable Essix Retainer

Plastic removable retainers may irritate your cheeks, gums and tongue at first, and one or two of the edges may feel sharp for the first few days. This is a fairly simple problem to deal with however.

Remove your retainers and use an emery board or nail file to smoothen the areas that are causing you irritation. It goes without saying that you should take care not to file away too much material otherwise you might compromise the effectiveness of your retainer. If your cheeks, tongue and gums continue to be irritated even after this, contact your orthodontist and have them trim your retainer so that it fits more comfortably.

While you wait for your appointment, purchase some orthodontic wax from your local pharmacy or store and apply that to the rough or sharp edges to protect your mouth from further irritation.

Hawley Retainer

While it is rare for Hawley retainers to cause irritation, the wire that wraps around the 6 teeth can sometimes feel rough. This can then irritate the tongue. In this case, have your orthodontist smooth the edge for you. It shouldn't cost anything and takes minutes to correct.

Permanent Bonded Retainer

In the early stages, your tongue will often come into contact with your bonded retainer, especially if you are wearing a lower retainer. In some cases, a short adjustment period is necessary and orthodontic wax may help. However, sometimes even a stray edge or pointed area of bonding glue may cause discomfort.

Your orthodontist can correct this issue in minutes by removing any excess bonding material, adjusting the wire, or smoothing the surface of the wire. Ensure you use some orthodontic wax in the meantime to protect your tongue from further damage.

Remember, your retainer is there to ensure your teeth do not shift back to their former positions. If it is causing you pain, deal with the problem as quickly as possible so it can do the job it was designed to do. Even wearing your retainer for an hour a day can make a huge difference.