Drinking Coffee With a Retainer: Should You Do It?

Coffee with retainers

You get retainers because you’ve just finished with your braces and you want to “retain” that beautiful smile. So why would you risk your new smile by drinking coffee while wearing your retainer? Coffee, and other drinks, are often the culprit in staining teeth and interfering with retainers—especially the clear, Essix style retainers.

So, what should you do? Drink coffee or avoid it completely? Should you switch to some other drink to stay awake during the day? Let’s find out.

How retainers can determine what you drink

Retainers come in multiple styles to meet the needs of individual people. Here’s what they are:

  • Hawley retainers- These are the traditional retainers made of acrylic, wire, and sometimes plastic. Hawley’s are known to be extremely durable but uncomfortable.
  • Clear or “Essix” retainers- Completely made from plastic, discreet, but also far less durable than other styles of retainers.
  • Permanent retainers- These are fixed to the backside of your front teeth. They tend to be very uncomfortable but conceal very well.

Because of this, drinks like coffee can have different effects depending on the materials of your retainer. For example, clear retainers can be warped if the coffee that you’re drinking is too hot. Coffee causes a lot more problems for your teeth and retainer.

Coffee stains and your teeth

You went through months or years wearing braces and will most likely go through a few months of wearing a retainer for that beautiful smile. When you went through so much, why do something to set yourself back? Study after study shows that the regular consumption of coffee can stain teeth.

Staining your teeth isn’t the only thing that coffee can stain. Clear retainers are often stained by drinks like coffee, tea, and even alcohol. Since clear retainers can be so sensitive, most dentists will recommend sticking to plain old water.

Now, what is it about coffee that makes it the last drink of choice if you have a retainer? Well, it all goes to the temperature, acidity levels, and sugar content. Let’s take a closer look at those next.

Does the sugar, acidity, or temperature matter?

We’ve all been told by our dentists that sugary drinks and foods can cause cavities and other dental problems. If you’ve asked your dentist about coffee, they’ve probably given you a few warnings about this drink in particular in relation to your retainer.

Besides clear retainers getting warped by hot coffee, sugar can get trapped in your retainers causing all sorts of problems. Once this build-up happens, it can be difficult to get it out and it could set back your smile. Drinks with a high acidity level can weaken your retainers over time and that’s not good.

Now, a good rule of thumb is to take your retainer out before you drink something like coffee— even if it’s an iced coffee. Now, if you permanent retainers this could be a problem, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

If you’re going to drink coffee with a retainer, then follow these tips

So you want to enjoy your coffee but you can’t take your retainer out— no problem. Here are a few tips to enjoy coffee and minimize damage to your teeth and retainer.

1. Use a straw!

Yep, using a straw is often overlooked by many people with a retainer. A straw can help prevent coffee from going all over your retainer. Just make sure to take small sips and avoid swishing the coffee around your mouth.

2. Rinse with fresh water

Make a habit of keeping water on hand when you drink coffee. Rinsing your mouth out with water (you can swallow, you don’t have to spit!) can help prevent sugar from building up on your retainer. It can also help to keep the acidic effects of coffee at bay.

3. Switch to iced coffee

Try turning the temperature down with iced coffee instead of hot. This little change can help prevent the warping damage done to clear retainers. Pair this method with using a straw and having some water on hand and you should be good.

4. Brush your teeth and rinse your retainer after drinking coffee

This could be a bit difficult but it’s best to brush your teeth real quick after drinking coffee. Even if it’s just a quick pass over and a quick rinse. The idea is to get as much of the coffee off your teeth, and retainer, instead of letting it just be there.

Do the same with your retainer and rinse it real good with water. If you have a permanent retainer, then this doesn’t apply to you. You can just brush and you’ll be fine.

What about other drinks like tea or alcohol?

While coffee can cause a bit of an issue with retainers, what about other drinks like tea or alcohol? Well, this depends on the type of retainer that you have.

Are you trying to drink hot tea? Then take out those clear retainers before you do. You wouldn’t want to warp them.

Tea and alcohol can have similar sugar contents depending on the drink made. It’s best to be just as cautious with these drinks.

Don’t worry, your retainer is temporary

While these tips might seem a bit of a hassle, don’t worry. Your retainer isn’t going to be in your mouth forever! Sooner or later, you’ll get it removed (even the “permanent” ones get removed at some point!) and you can go back to enjoying drinks like coffee.


Having a retainer is often the end of a very long journey in getting a beautiful smile. This is why you have to be careful when drinking things like coffee and other drinks. While it’s best to take out your retainer, that’s not an option for everyone.

If you are going to drink coffee, try using a straw, taking small sips, and rinsing your mouth out when you can. Even brushing soon after and giving your retainer a quick wash can help out a lot. Just remember, your retainer is temporary, but that beautiful smile is forever.