Retaining Their Retainers: Holding on to What’s Holding Your Investment in Their Smile Together

Have you ever seen a mom, dad, and their child standing in a dumpster behind a pizza place digging through the trash? Chances are they are searching for a lost retainer.

A lost-retainer-dumpster-dive is a common if unpleasant occurrence for families across the country, and maybe around the world. To give yourself the best possible chance to skip it, here are ten ways you can help your children retain their retainers—and the beautiful smile you invested in for them.

  1. Choose a Brightly-Colored Case. Retainers often have a case where they are kept when not in the mouth. It would be best to find the brightest, most obnoxious hue for this essential accessory. Not only will it be easier to find in a purse or backpack, but it will also be a visual cue to put the retainer in it when it comes out of the mouth. Moreover, a bonus benefit is it might stand out in a trash can if it inadvertently ends up at the bottom of the barrel, literally.
  2. Label the case. Having a name and number on the obnoxious case gives someone a way to get it back to you if they should find it.
  3. Store it in the same place. After the initial phase where the patient wears the retainer all the time, the retainer is usually only worn at night. Designate one place where the brightly-colored case lives, e.g., the nightstand, the bathroom cabinet or in the dresser drawer, for example. If you get your kid in the habit of keeping the case in one place, it becomes a routine to put it there, which will reduce the chance it is misplaced.
  4. Set reminders on your technology. Today’s technology is excellent for establishing routines. A daily reminder that pops up on your technology or your child’s can help keep your child aware of their retainer’s whereabouts as well as their habits with wearing it.
  5. Share the replacement cost with your child. Sometimes awareness of how much the retainer is to replace can reinforce the importance of holding on to it. Especially if you set the expectation that your child will share in or be responsible for the replacement appliance.
  6. Have rewards for responsibility. Positive reinforcement is an effective way to inspire habits you like, such as wearing a retainer as directed and not losing it. Make the award something significant and easily attainable at first to give your child a taste of success and then gradually increase the interval where awards are earned.
  7. Avoid the napkin-wrap at mealtime. Remember the family in the dumpster? They were probably standing knee deep in garbage digging through dirty napkins looking for a retainer. If you make a rule that you child cannot wrap the retainer in a napkin, then you have fewer chances that you will have to do the same.
  8. When in doubt, wear it. If your child isn’t eating or giving a public speech, wear the retainer. It’s impossible to misplace the retainer when it is in the patient’s mouth. The more your child wears it, the lower his or her risk of losing it.
  9. Use a post-it. If your child wears his or her retainer to school, send a note along reminding them to put the retainer in the brightly-colored case or even not to wrap it in a napkin. That way they get the message at the right time and right place.
  10. Develop memory routines. Remembering where you put your retainer is also part of a vital life skill, setting up memory routines. For example, if your child has to put the retainer down somewhere other than the established place in the brightly-colored case, they should send a text reminder to themselves if they have a phone or say it out loud to someone if they don’t.

Does it mean that if you do all these things with your child, you will avoid the dumpster dive for the retainer one day? Unfortunately, accidents happen, so not necessarily. However, you do have a smaller risk of it, and when we are talking about an up close and personal with the general public’s rubbish looking for your child’s lost retainer, it’s better than nothing.

To schedule your free consultation today, call Bloom Orthodontics office in Long Beach at 562-421-8883.

Bloom Orthodontics in Long Beach has a long history improving our patients’ smiles. We provide modern orthodontic treatments delivered with old fashioned excellence in patient experience. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.


Younger, Shannan. “4 ways to help your kid avoid losing a retainer.” Web. 24 April 2019.

“Expert tips for never losing or forgetting your retainer again.” 25 July 2017. Web. 24 April 2019.

“How to Find Your Retainer.” Web. 24 April 2019.