Introduction: Make a Night Time Orthodontic Retainer

Picture of Make a Night Time Orthodontic Retainer

I lost my retainer about 6 months ago. It was a clear invisalign retainer, and I really didn't want to pay 200 dollars to get a new one. So I made my own, and they work great.
The pictures show the finished product.
Notice that they are white, so they are only really good for night time, unless you want to look like a dork. Usually after 6 months you can only wear them at night anyways.

Step 1: Materials/ Tools Needed

Picture of Materials/ Tools Needed

A glass cup
Around 5 grams of Shapelock plastic, aka friendly plastic, per retainer

The best place to get the plastic is by getting a 35 gram sample for 5 dollars here

Step 2: Melting and Forming

Picture of Melting and Forming

If this is your second retainer you are making, make sure you have the previous one in your mouth. This way they will fit together when you bite down.

Fill up the glass cup with water and put it in the microwave until it bubbles (around 2 min). Pour the shapelock plastic into the water and let it sit until it is all clear. Use a fork or something else to press the plastic together into a ball. Once it is totally clear, take it out with a fork and pull a chunk off of it, around 5 g. Then shape it into a half ring in the shape of your teeth. Make sure it is wide so you can fold it over the teeth. (See pic)

Do not try to press it onto your teeth yet. Once it is in a basic half ring shape, put it back into the water to let it soften again, then take it out and fold the edges in. (See pic)

Step 3: Fitting

Picture of Fitting

Once that is done, soften it again by putting it in the water, then immediately take it out and place it in your mouth, over your teeth (top or bottom). Try to create suction with your mouth to get the retainer to fit snugly over your teeth. Use your fingers to press the plastic around your teeth also. If this is your second retainer you are making, bite down so that the other retainer makes an impression in the current one. This will ensure that they fit together.

Leave the retainer in your mouth for a few minutes while it hardens, then take it out.

If any part sticks out and is uncomfortable, it can be cut off with scissors or tin snips.
If it still is not the way you want it, resoften it in the water again and reform.

This plastic can be melted as many times as needed.


magushnik01 (author)2016-10-20

Thats pretty cool. You can get professionally made retainers tho for much less than what you pay at the dentist. I'd go to

Aussieboss (author)2016-07-11

Will one 6 oz bag be enough for top and bottom retainers?

galaxyman7 (author)Aussieboss2016-07-11

Yep, thats more than enough

kyler405 (author)galaxyman72016-09-06

I have my mold from my orthodontist. Could i make my retainer from that? Its been wayyy to long to make it from my teeth ha.

Kxl1e (author)2016-08-08

I lost my retainer two days ago, I was looking everywhere for something I can use and I saw this, I am going to try to make it but I have a question. What do I do after its done in the microwave? Please answer right away and thank you..

camillekn (author)2016-07-27

can you get this plastic in any stores?

DaniaA6 (author)2016-07-21

I wasn't able to get shapelock, is Instamorph okay?

Chantelletj (author)2016-03-14

Hello, i know this was posted some time ago but heres hoping youll reply. I broke my retainer after only having it for 2 months, whoops. Im in no position to pay the fees for a replacement and i have an obsession about my teeth. I think your idea if brilliant but im in the UK, so do you have any alternative tips please? Many thanks :)

galaxyman7 (author)Chantelletj2016-03-14

The plastic is called "PCL". From wikipedia:

"PCL also has many applications in the hobbyist market (sold under various tradenames, such as "InstaMorph", "Friendly Plastic", "ShapeLock", "PolyMorph", "Plastimake", "Protoplast", "Plaast" etc.)."

So any of those will work, as long as they are food safe

sissykeira (author)2016-03-10

how do i make a clear retainer

KashmereG1 (author)2016-01-24

Hey..i just ordered some of the plastic. Just wanted to know if you know how cavity fillings hold up when fitting the plastic around your teeth? Not recent fillings btw but old fillings.
Thanks in advance man

galaxyman7 (author)KashmereG12016-01-24

It shouldn't affect them. The plastic isn't very sticky so it won't grab the fillings or anything.

Xcom79 (author)2016-01-21

First off thank you for pointing a lot of us in the right direction but I do have some questions that your experience would be able to answer.

I am ordering some of this stuff from amazon today. Any tips on your technique to go from glass to mouth without burning yourself? I will be using boiling water instead of microwave have you tried it and know of any problems I might have to be concerned about? Also how long do I have to keep it in my mouth before its hard enough to remove and still fit? Anything else you might not consider important because you have done this a few times before that I might need to know when I get start doing it myself?

Again thank you very much for this information your going to save a lot of us a good amount of cash and having to deal with stress about our teeth moving!

galaxyman7 (author)Xcom792016-01-22

Your not going to have a problem with it being too hot. Just let it cool in the air and test it with yiur fingers before putting it in your mouth. Also, the plastic cools very quickly when it is in your mouth, so it is going to take a few times to get it to the right shape. Once you feel it become rigid, you can take it out. It should be pretty obvious.

Tkgathers87 (author)2016-01-12

Where can i buy the material from?

galaxyman7 (author)Tkgathers872016-01-12

Ahh I see that shapelock took down their sample size. You can buy 500g from shapelock's website still. I have only used shapelock before so I'm not sure how other similar products will work. You can look for "shapelock", on amazon and it comes up with a bunch of similar stuff, really just under a different brand name. But do make sure it is the same type of plastic and is food safe before using it.

galaxyman7 (author)galaxyman72016-01-12

The plastic is called "PCL". From wikipedia:

"PCL also has many applications in the hobbyist market (sold under various tradenames, such as "InstaMorph", "Friendly Plastic", "ShapeLock", "PolyMorph", "Plastimake", "Protoplast", "Plaast" etc.)."

wtfaria (author)2016-01-09

I made this but they felt reeeeaaally tight. Do you have any tips on how to make them fit snugly but not suuuper tight?

galaxyman7 (author)wtfaria2016-01-09

It might just be some sections of the retainer that are sticking out and poking you. You can just cut the extra parts off with scissors. Remember, you can always just melt them again and start over!
Also, if that doesn't work, try using less suction with your mouth when you are fitting them.
Good luck!

galaxyman7 (author)2016-01-05

just an important note for everyone reading this: make sure you create suction with your mouth when forming the retainers! It will give you a nice snug fit just like professional retainers.

VividI (author)2016-01-05

Thank god for your brilliant idea. I lost my retainer and my parents were going to make me pay for it ($300). This is basically my only (much, much, much cheaper!) alternative. Unfortunately, my mom insists I talk this out with my orthodontist, to see if it's "acceptable" and all. It's probably not - for one thing, it's uncommon; and secondly, the orthodontist will obviously want to make some money off of my mistake. They're not going to approve of a version that's up to 60 times cheaper than theirs.

galaxyman7 (author)VividI2016-01-05

yeah my orthodontist wasn't happy about it lol. Said he didn't think it was going to work, that it might make my teeth worse etc etc. Obviously they are going to say that for liability reasons, and to keep you as a customer. Just remember, a retainer is a piece of plastic formed around your teeth. That's it. Doesnt matter if it is 300 dollars or 3 dollars, all it does it make sure your teeth don't move. Just make sure it feels tight around your teeth (just like your previous retainer), and that they are comfortable, and you are set!

5 years later and my teeth haven't moved. That's proof enough. Hope your mom goes for it!

RanaS19 (author)2016-01-01

THANK YOU! ... omg i was panicking since i lost my retainer and my ortho is on vacation and teeth started to hurt and shift ..
maybe it wont hold everything in place but it will slow it down, but at the very least it took the panick away XD

jukkaw (author)2015-11-22

Hey man, please answer this. Im in the Uk, so that plastic you recommend isnt an option for me. Is there any UK plastic i could use? Like polymorph plastic, would you say it will do?

PaigeR4 (author)2015-10-01

Hi, my retainer of 3 years has snapped ive tried to glue it back together but its not working the same, i havent worn my retainers in atleast 2 months if i do this and use the old retainers to form the shape will it work? Dont fancy paying £50 but my teeth need to go back straight!

galaxyman7 (author)PaigeR42015-10-01

So it depends how much your teeth have moved. If you are ok with them where they are now, just follow this instructable and make new ones.
If your teeth have moved enough to need them to move back, i suppose you could use the old retainers as a mold for something like epoxy? You would first use lots of baby powder on the old retainer as a "mold release", then pour the epoxy into the retainer and let it dry. Then remove the epoxy piece from the retainer. That would give you a replica of your teeth that you could form the new retainer around.
As for epoxy, you can get it at any hardware store in the adhesives section. Just follow the instructions on it for mixing and drying. Also, wash your final retainer thouroughly before wearing it.

SportingSmiles (author)2015-07-27

This will not to prevent your teeth from shifting and not sure if its even safe. The retainers have to be very tight to your teeth to be effective. We know that dentist can be expensive. We have upper and lower retainers for 95$. FDA approved material and made the correct way.

Were going to put up instructables soon on the correct way a retainer is made.

They were just as tight a fit as my clear plastic retainers from the orthodontist. The plastic is food safe, and is the same type of plastic that orthodontists use. My teeth are still straight and I have had no problems. Those are the facts. Let people decide which one is the better option.

EmmaC2 (author)2015-03-28


galaxyman7 (author)EmmaC22015-03-28

My orthodontist said that it wouldnt work too. I have used them for years with no side effect, and my teeth havent moved at all. The plastic is food safe. I think they might be worried about it poking you in the mouth. If its uncomfortable, just trim it and sand down the edges a bit. Its very easy.

EmmaC2 (author)2015-03-28


RobertW15 (author)2015-01-21

This is an interesting and well done method, mine was a little cheaper though. I just used an athletic mouthguard from Walmart and shaped it as instructed on the package.

goldengirl9 (author)2014-12-31

Can i make these retainers from my original impressions that i already have made?

DvfgD (author)2014-12-08

Not saying there's anything wrong with this method, it's genius really but it you wanted to spend a little more money and/or time you could get a dental quality one cheaply.

There is a guy on youtube who makes his own retainers with dental grade plastic and a vacuum forming machine (just like dentists do). It is much trickier than this method and also more expensive but for those looking for that option his video is here;

I have also seen people on Amazon selling clear retainers here;

They send you the impression material by post, you do it at home and send it back to them and they will make a custom fitted retainer for you.

KuliaN (author)2014-11-10

Hey do you have to use Shapelock plastic? Is it alright to use something else other than plastic? And also, can this still be used even if you didn't use braces?

pecker (author)2014-10-24

I started to grind and clench my teeth while sleeping with the result that my jaw and teeth are mighty sore. I just spent £35 for a mouth guard from Amazon yesterday.

Ho hum. I've got a kilo of this stuff lying around; never thought to use it.

In the meantime, I made one. Dead easy and fits nice and snug.

pecker (author)2014-10-24

I started to grind and clench my teeth while sleeping with the result that my jaw and teeth are mighty sore. I just spent £35 for a mouth guard from Amazon yesterday.

Ho hum. I've got a kilo of this stuff lying around; never thought to use it.

In the meantime, I made one. Dead easy and fits nice and snug.

slaw7 (author)2014-02-18

Thank you so much. Do you still use this?

galaxyman7 (author)slaw72014-02-19

Yes I do, and it is still holding up.

jmills hoy (author)2013-12-19

just got my 100g bag of poly-morph for £4 on ebay . and made my first mouth guard witch i will have on Thu the day its that thin you cant really see it :)

this instructable is just fab thank you :) x

bo'brien9 (author)2013-09-28

You seem to be ignoring everyone's valid points.

-Shapelock's polymorph could be of way lesser quality than medical grade polymorph that is used for dentistry (called Resilon).

-There ARE bad plastics out there. Some plastics leach BPA's into water and whatnot. This is why you should not reuse disposable water bottles. Look at the different numbers under plastic bottles. Some numbers are safe. Some have a mixture of bad plastics.

-If the company is telling people that they do not endorse it for personal dental use, then you may conclude that it might not be safe to put in your mouth.

-Resilon/medical grade polymorph is extremely expensive, BTW.

"End rant"

galaxyman7 (author)bo'brien92013-09-29

You do have good points. I'm saying that I don't think they are that big a deal. I have had these retainers for 3 years, and nothing has happened to me. That's all the proof I can really give, along with saying that the plastic is very similar to dental plastics. I'm not saying that I have done an entire study on the plastic along with an FDA approval. If you want that, get 200 dollar retainers, be my guest.

bo'brien9 (author)galaxyman72013-09-29

Not sure if my post takes awhile to show up. So I will respond again.

Cancer might not show up for more than 20 years. At that point, it is tough to figure out cause. The company who makes this does not seem to want to be transparent about potential leeching of potential carcinogens.

I personally think the $200 retainer is worth it.

People are able to do whatever they want. Just be informed people.

galaxyman7 (author)bo'brien92013-09-29

from their website:

"Facts and Tips about ShapeLock

Reusable - Just reheat and remold, endlessly recycle-able.

Super Tough, Safe and Non-Toxic. "

From the wikipedia on PCL:

"PCL also has many applications in the hobbyist market (sold under various tradenames, such as "InstaMorph", "Friendly Plastic", "ShapeLock", "PolyMorph", "Plastimake", "Protoplast", "Plaast" etc.)."

"PCL is degraded by hydrolysis of its ester linkages in physiological conditions (such as in the human body) and has therefore received a great deal of attention for use as an implantable biomaterial. In particular it is especially interesting for the preparation of long term implantable devices, owing to its degradation which is even slower than that of polylactide."

Not that hard to understand...

bo'brien9 (author)galaxyman72013-09-29

You are not understanding that the PCL safe for medical/dental use may NOT be the same grade or quality as the one ordered for consumer use.

instructablezz (author)2013-09-06

How do you put it on your teeth?
So in the cup is melted plastic ... do you just pour it on you teeth or something?

fjm30 (author)2013-08-08

Is it possible that the reason shapelock is so much cheaper than the products used by orthodontists eg resilon is that the manufacturing process used by shapelock isn't medical grade? Ie they are making a product that is non-toxic to skin contact (as per their recommended uses, eg tool handles), but which may have impurities that would be hazardous when used internally? And perhaps this is why shapelock advise against internal use. It's a great idea, but there's no guarantee it won't poison you over the long term!

galaxyman7 (author)fjm302013-08-08

I don't think that it is the material that is expensive. It's the process for making the retainer. And plastic is plastic... I would be worried about drinking water that came out of PVC pipes more than I would be worried putting this stuff in my mouth. And the fact is, the plastic I am using is the same type as the kind used in orthodontics anyways. You can't really get safer than that. You could argue that anything could poison you over the long term! For instance, water bottles, or polyester clothes, etc..... Part of modern day life is accepting that plastics are all around us. All I'm saying is that if you don't want to take a "risk" you don't have to, but this risk seems to be a VERY minor one. End rant :P.

campbel27 (author)2013-07-18

I noticed I had a bit of a sore throat after wearing these for a short time after making them. Soaked it in 1/2 cup water with about a 2 teaspoons of vinegar for maybe an hour. rinsed it and then soaked in 1/2 cup water with a tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in it. Seemed to help.

galaxyman7 (author)campbel272013-07-18

Hmm interesting. It could be that the retainers are soaking up a lot of water and leaving your mouth dry. The plastic tends to absorb a lot of water.

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