how to take care of your retainer

The day your braces come off is most definitely a cause for celebration! Your smile is straight and bright, and treatment is almost done.

That’s right – it’s almost done.

Wearing your retainer is just as important as keeping your appointments for adjustments, and if you’re smart, you’ll wear your retainer for a long time to come. What’s the point of putting all the time, effort, and money into orthodontic treatment if you’re just going to let your teeth drift back out of alignment again?

Retainers come in two main varieties: removable and fixed. Taking proper care of them is important for your teeth and your wallet, so expend that little bit of effort to do things right.

Caring For a Fixed Retainer

Fixed retainers are made of a thin wire that’s bonded to the back of your teeth to hold them in place.

Because fixed retainers are bonded to your teeth, caring for them is a lot like caring for metal brackets during your orthodontic treatment. You don’t want to let food or other particulate build up between the wire and your teeth, and cleaning under and around the wire takes a threader or a similar cleaning device.

If you have a fixed retainer, it’s a good idea to swish with water after you eat to free any bits of food that might have gotten stuck.

Keeping your fixed retainer clean takes a little more effort than a removable retainer, but it’s a tradeoff.

Caring For a Removable Retainer

With a removable retainer, cleaning is easier, but there are also a lot more opportunities to lose it, break it, or forget to wear it.

Brush your retainer when you brush your teeth, just don’t use toothpaste because the abrasives in toothpaste scratch up your retainer and create little nooks and crannies where bacteria can grow. That’s not something you want going on in your mouth.

Each time you remove your retainer for anything, put it in the case. Removable retainers are so often lost when they get wrapped in napkins and accidentally thrown out, or they get chewed up by dogs, or they get warped because they were left in a hot car, or they end up damaged, or…

Anyway, be mindful of your retainer.

Soaking your removable retainer is a great way to keep it sanitary, too. Use denture tablets or solutions that are specifically designed for retainers, and never use harsh chemicals as they’ll damage the polymer.

Another common retainer mistake is dipping it in hot or boiling water to try to clean and sanitize it. Don’t do that! Boiling water will warp the metal and plastic, and wearing a warped retainer can damage your teeth.

And this should go without saying, but:

If you have a removable retainer, make sure you wear it when you’re supposed to. There’s a reason you have it!