BRACES REMOVAL DAY is the most exciting day of any orthodontic patient’s treatment, but it’s not where the story ends. Next come the retainers, to make sure that smile stays properly aligned. But how do we keep our retainers in good condition, and why are they so important?
Why Do We Need Retainers?
It would be nice if our teeth stayed exactly where our braces left them: perfectly straight for the rest of our lives. Sadly, this isn’t how teeth work. They are held in place by periodontal ligaments, and these ligaments take time to adjust to their new position. Neglecting your retainer allows those ligaments to tug those teeth back to where they were before you had braces! This is why it’s crucial not only to wear your retainer as directed, but to take good care of it.
Cleaning Removable Retainers
Removable retainers come in two basic varieties: Hawley (the classic retainer made of wire fixed to a fitted acrylic plate) and Essix or Trutains (clear plastic retainers). The different types require slightly different approaches when it comes to cleaning. Make sure to follow these steps so that your retainer doesn’t become smelly and full of tartar deposits.
A cheap and easy way to clean your Hawley retainer is by soaking it in baking soda water. Doing this every day would damage the soldered metal pieces, so it’s important to only do this once in a while. Baking soda is a safer solution than effervescent tablets, especially if you have allergies. You should also avoid using mouthwash, which can dry the acrylic out to the point of damaging it. Denture cleaning tablets for partial dentures will keep your Hawley retainer clean without damaging the metal parts.
It’s important to brush your Essix retainer as often as you brush your teeth — but hold the toothpaste, because it could scratch the plastic. Also make sure that the water you use to rinse it is lukewarm. Hot water will warp the retainer’s shape. Denture cleaning tablets or soaking in baking soda water is a great way to deep-clean an Essix retainer too, and there isn’t any metal solder to worry about, so you can do this as often as you like.
Looking for more uses for that baking soda? Check out this video:
Cleaning A Permanent Retainer
These are great tips for cleaning removable retainers, but what if you have a permanent retainer — the kind cemented to the backs of your teeth? Easy! Just clean these the same way you kept your braces clean: diligent brushing and flossing.
It can be tricky to floss around a permanent retainer, but it’s crucial for keeping tartar from building up around it and the backs of your teeth. Threaders and special floss designed for retainers can make this process easier, and you might even consider getting a water flosser if you don’t already have one.
If You Need More Tips On Retainer Care, Just Ask!
Whatever kind of retainer you use, you can always bring yours to our practice or to your dentist for cleaning and inspection. We want to help you make sure that retainer lasts!