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The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and proportions of opportunistic pathogens harboured on orthodontic retainers.First, Staphylococcus spp. and Candida spp. were isolated from the retainer’s inner surface and from other mucosal surfaces of the subject’s mouth by routine bacterial culture. The prevalence and proportions of these micro-organisms on retainers was compared in different areas of the mouth within a group of retainer wearers, and mucosal carriage was compared to a group of nonretainer wearers. Staphylococcus spp. were isolated from 50% of the retainers and comprised on average 8·4% of the viable microbiota. Candida spp. comprised 0·13% of the viable microbiota and were recovered from 66·7% of the retainers. Neither genus was isolated from nonretainer wearers. Second, the two most commonly worn retainers manufactured from different materials were sampled; again Staphylococcus spp. and Candida spp. were recovered; however, no statistical differences were observed between the devices.Opportunistic, nonoral, pathogenic micro-organisms were recovered from orthodontic retainers.It is possible that an orthodontic retainer could be a reservoir for opportunistic pathogens and act as a source of cross-, self- and re-infection.