After your orthodontic treatment is complete you will have to wear a retainer to ensure your teeth stay in their new straightened position. Our CCOA Dentists discuss how to care for your retainer properly.
Different Types Of Retainers
Essentially, there are two types of retainers: fixed and removable, and there are two subcategories within the removable category. How you will care for your retainer will vary based on the type of retainer you have.
- Hawley Retainer - This type is molded out of acrylic to fit your teeth. They have a wire that helps hold the retainer in place. This type of retainer is removable, so it’s easy to keep clean.
- Essix Clear Plastic Retainer - These retainers slip over your teeth and are pretty much transparent. They’re easy to take out but aren’t durable as Hawley retainers.
- Fixed or Bonded Retainers - These are sometimes referred to as permanent retainers. These are actually attached to your lower front teeth. They’re used if you have a high risk of your teeth shifting. This type of retainer cannot be removed by you. It’s usually put into place for months or even years.
Do I Have To Clean My Retainer?
If you're being given a retainer, you're probably wondering how you are going to clean it. Your retainer sits inside your mouth and against your teeth, so it quickly accumulates bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Just like you brush your teeth every day, it’s important to clean your retainer every day.
Cleaning Hawley and Essix Retainers
Both Hawley and clear plastic retainers can be removed from your mouth for daily cleaning.
To clean your Hawley or clear plastic retainer, follow these steps:
- Make sure you clean your retainer as soon as you remove it from your mouth, while it’s still wet. This will make it easier to clean off any debris.
- Brush out your retainer with lukewarm water after every meal. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of brushing your teeth at this time too.
- For a deeper clean, mix lukewarm water with mild dish soap (toothpaste is abrasive and can scratch the retainer’s surface). Use a soft toothbrush or denture brush to gently scrub away plaque and other debris.
- If necessary, use a cotton swab to get into the deepest grooves and ridges on clear plastic retainers.
- Ask your dentist about soaking your retainer in a denture or retainer cleaner, like Efferdent or Polident. If they recommend soaking, mix a cup of lukewarm water with one tablet of cleaner and follow the package instructions for timing.
If you notice debris on your retainer that won’t come off, take it to your dentist or orthodontist. There are special solutions that can remove stubborn tartar.
Cleaning Fixed or Bonded Retainers
These retainers are attached to your teeth, so you must floss them daily to keep them clean. This process may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Here’s how to clean your permanent retainer:
- Grab a 6-inch piece of floss and use a floss threader to thread the floss between your two front lower teeth.
- Hold one end of the floss with your fingers and the other with the threader.
- Once you get the floss under your retainer wire, simply move it up and down between the teeth all the way to the gum line. The floss should gently go below the gum line if possible.
- Slide the floss sideways to the next area you want to clean. Pull down until it’s between your teeth.
- Repeat this process with each tooth that’s attached to your permanent retainer.
If you’re having a hard time flossing, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your dentist or orthodontist. They can help guide your technique and provide more tips.
More Tips To Care For Your Retainer
Clean Your Retainer Frequently
Treat your retainers the same way you would treat your own teeth! Carefully scrub your retainer with a toothbrush and water after each use. Avoid brushing the retainer with toothpaste, as it can be abrasive and scratch your retainer which can make it more difficult to clean keep your retainer clean.
Wear Your Retainer As Recommended
Use your retainer as often as recommended by your orthodontist. Your retainer is an important last step in your orthodontic treatment and they only work if you use them!
Avoid Heat On Your Retainer
Your retainer will only work if it remained properly fitted to your teeth! Your dentist will make sure it is custom fitted to your teeth but it’s up to you to make sure it stays that way. Avoid leaving your retainer in a hot environment, such as a windowsill or a hot car. It can melt or wrap. Never put it in boiling water; you may think that boiling it is a great way to make it as clean as possible, but the heat will ruin it.
Keep Your Retainer Away From Pets
Yes, you love your furry best friend, but if your companion likes to chew, chances are they would be delighted to get a hold of your retainer. Keep your retainer safe and away from pets at all times.
Avoid Putting Napkins On Your Retainer
If you wrap your retainer in a napkin during meals, it can be easy for you or an unsuspecting waiter to throw it in the trash accidentally. To avoid this, keep your retainer in its storage box.
Soak Your Retainer
To add extra cleaning to your retainer, try soaking it. You can buy retainer cleaner, which comes in tablet form, or you can make your own cleaning solution by mixing 1 part of sodium hypochlorite with ten parts of water. Soak for 5-10 minutes, and your retainer will be clean.
Replace Your Retainer When Needed
Even the best retainers eventually wear out. If you find that your retainer is deteriorating or behaving differently, contact your dentist. Replacing your retainer when due is an important part of maintaining your smile.
Carefully Put On And Take Off Your Retainer
When you put on your stand, make sure it is always on. There should be no gap between the teeth and the support. When removing it, do not twist it with your tongue or pull it to one side. Otherwise, the retainer may get damaged. Loosen your retainer in several places when you remove it and then ease it off. Do not forget to store it in its storage box!
Brush Your Teeth Before And After Wearing Your Retainer
Before and after putting on your retainer, brush your teeth. If you put your support on dirty teeth, your support will get dirty much faster, and it is not good for your teeth
Keep Your Retainer One Spot
It sounds obvious, but do not lose your retainer! Always keep it in the bag when not in use and keep it out of reach of dogs or children. If you lose it, make sure you replace it.