4 ways to help your kid avoid losing a retainer

When the blessed day comes when a child gets his/her braces removed, there is much rejoicing. The kid is thrilled to return to the world of chewing gum and popcorn, and parents are ridiculously happy that the orthodonture bills will finally stop coming. And then the kid loses his/her retainer. The bills for the replacement come, and the parental thrill is gone.

For those who don't know, a retainer is a piece of plastic and metal that is custom-made for each individual's mouth that helps hold the teeth in the proper position or to treat other dental issues. They are very easily lost. Looking for a lost retainer seems to be a right tween parent passage, and not a fun one. I remember my dad dumpster diving for one at Pizza Hut. Countless lunch room trash receptacles have been the scene of frantic searches.  My hope for you is that you can avoid that all together.

photo-531. Get the brightest color case possible.

When the orthodontist set my tween loose with her retainer, they gave her a retainer case that was darkly colored. I asked if other colors were available and requested the brightest color case they had. The tech looked surprised but did produce this case.

My tween describes it as "blinding orange."

My mission has been accomplished.

It's perhaps not her first choice of colors, but I asked for it because it is hard to miss. It will be hard to not notice this item when throwing away food on a tray. And should it fall through that crack, it will be easier to locate in the bag of garbage that I'm pretty sure we'll be sorting through at some point.

If your orthodontist does not have brightly colored cases, I found some fun options online here.

2. Label the bright case.

If someone finds it, you want them to have a way to return it to you. If your kids name and phone number are on the case and it is lost with retainer inside, you'll be thrilled that someone can return it to you.

3. Keep the retainer, and the case, in the same spot.

Consistency is key. Have the retainer owner keep it in the same spot when not wearing it at home, and the same is true for other times that it comes out. If a tween gets in the habit of putting it in the case and putting the case in a purse, backpack, locker, whatever, there's a better chance of hanging on to it.

4. Discuss replacement cost.file0001845067335

Tweens sometimes seem oblivious to the actual cost of items. I know, it baffles me, too, but it's true. Ask at the orthodontist's office approximately how much a replacement retainer costs with your tween present. If a tween knows he/she may have to contribute to that replacement cost, or pay the whole thing, there's a suddenly a vested interest in hanging on to it. You want a tween's attention? The almighty dollar can often get it.

One final tip: Check periodically with your tweens to make sure they are still have and are wearing a retainer if they wear it only at night. I've heard several stories of kids who didn't want to fess up to losing a retainer and then went months without one, resulting in teeth that had moved quite a bit and making an expensive problem even worse.

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