Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Today’s the day you’ve been looking forward to since your first phone call with Decatur Orthodontics. You’re hardly able to sit still as Dr. Francis removes your braces or tells you that he won’t be giving you more clear aligners. You can’t stop smiling at your reflection — active treatment is over! Your smile is exactly how you dreamed it would be! 

Now it is time to move into the retention period, which is the process of preserving your new teeth alignment. This is when you will be issued a retainer. 

But first, what are retainers FOR?

The pressure we apply to your teeth during active treatment causes the bones and ligaments in your mouth to allow for teeth movement. When we conclude active treatment, it’s because we are satisfied with the placement of the teeth, and we need to relieve that pressure to stop further progression. However, your mouth needs a little more time after active treatment to stabilize. Without something to prevent your teeth from moving, they will attempt to move back to their original positions (also known as regression)! 

That’s where your retainer comes in! They do exactly what the name suggests — they retain the teeth in their new positions as the mouth becomes situated. It is imperative that you wear your retainer as instructed by Dr. Francis. Neglecting or forgetting to wear your retainer often will give your teeth the time and space they need to shift. If they regress enough, you might have to restart active treatment!

For more information about retainers and the different types we offer at Decatur Orthodontics, click here.

Do you need to clean your retainers?

Unfortunately, retainers are not self-cleaning items, though it would be cool if they were! They do require some daily cleaning to maintain a healthy mouth.

The best way to clean your retainer depends on the kind that you have. The good news is that no matter which one you have, it only takes a few minutes! Let’s dive in!

Removable Retainers

There are a few different ways to clean removable retainers, but we’ll cover the basics that should work for most of them, if not all. After you take them out of your mouth, you need to do the following:

  1. Wet the retainers with lukewarm water. Extreme temperatures can warp the material, so be careful!
  2. Apply unscented antibacterial soap and gently scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Using harsh products or scrubbing too hard can damage the surface of the retainer and make them uncomfortable to wear. If you wear an Essix retainer or a retainer with a more discreet appearance, the scratches can make them more visible. So wash with care.
  3. Thoroughly rinse with lukewarm water. 
  4. Allow to dry completely before wearing.

It’s that easy! You should do these steps twice a day when you perform your regular oral hygiene routine.

Fixed Retainers

These take a little more effort to clean than the removable retainers, but with a little practice, it will become second nature!

First, you’ll need to floss! To do so, slip the floss between the teeth underneath the retainer. You want to make sure you get the gums! If you struggle to get the floss between the teeth, you can try floss threaders!

Next, use a water flosser! We strongly recommend you invest in one if you haven’t already! These machines use jets of water to rid the mouth of stubborn bacteria, plaque, and food particles left behind by regular flossing.

Finally, give the retainer a gentle scrub with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

That’s it! It might be challenging to get all the nooks and crannies of your fixed retainers at first, but we promise it’s worth it!

Keeping your retainers clean helps reduce the amount of bacteria and plaque in the mouth that causes bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and other issues that could harm your new smile! Removable retainers that are routinely cleaned also smell and taste fresh, increasing the likelihood you’ll wear them and your chances of a successful retention period!

Remember: Before applying any product to your retainers, ask Dr. Francis if it’s safe! Retainer styles are made of different materials, and what is safe for one product might harm another. 

How do I store my removable retainers when I am not wearing them?

Removable retainers are thin and small. Sometimes they are even transparent! These features make them comfortable and discreet, but they also make them easy to break and lose!

Retainers are removed for eating and drinking anything other than water. Think of all the places you eat at: restaurants, festivals, movie theaters, friend’s or family’s houses, in the car, and more!

Retainers are also removed for cleaning and performing oral hygiene. This is done at home, hotels, motels, and friend’s or family’s houses.

That’s a lot of places for your removable retainers to be left behind, accidentally thrown away, stepped on, lost behind furniture that never moves, or chewed up by someone’s beloved pet.

To protect your retainers, put them in their case when you’re not wearing them! This case safeguards them from physical danger and acts as a barrier from germs and other microscopic threats. 

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is ImportantDecatur Orthodontics is here for your retainer needs!

Retainers can always be replaced, but we recommend taking good care of your appliances for the best retention results! 

At Decatur Orthodontics, we understand the transition to the retention phase can be a little confusing or stressful for patients and their families. Our entire team is here to make it as easy as possible.

If you would like to schedule a follow-up appointment, need to request a replacement retainer, or have questions about retainers and their care, contact us today! You can book an appointment with the skilled and professional Dr. Francis or speak with a helpful and welcoming staff member. If you are a new patient looking to start orthodontic treatment, we offer free in-person and virtual consultations!

We look forward to helping you achieve your smile goals!