Here at Sandifer Orthodontics, we want to help you show off your smile! Our expert team has helped patients of all ages achieve straighter teeth and improved oral health, but even the best results won’t last forever without a bit of help. That’s why retainers are so important! Regular use of a retainer is an essential part of every treatment plan, but many people underestimate the significance of this appliance. Whether you’re a current patient or just scheduling your free consultation, it’s essential to understand what retainers do and how to take care of them! Keep reading to learn more.
How often should you clean your retainer?
Your retainer is in your mouth often. That means it’s constantly exposed to all the bacteria, plaque, and food debris hanging around there! Dr. Sandifer will tell you exactly how often to clean your specific retainer, but it will usually be daily. Of course, life happens, and you may forget now and then. This isn’t a big deal as long as it doesn’t happen too often, but you should be able to recognize when your retainer is overdue for a cleaning! These signs include a bad taste or smell, a cloudy appearance, or white spots.
How should you clean your retainer?
Before you get into a cleaning routine for your retainer, you need to know what kind you’re using. The three main types of retainers are:
A fixed retainer is made of a thin wire that reaches across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth and is bonded with glue. This set-up is incredibly efficient at keeping newly straightened teeth in place, and fixed retainers tend to have the best outcome overall. You also never have to remember to wear it or worry about losing it since it stays in your mouth!
Good oral hygiene is always important, but you’ll need to carefully brush and floss around a fixed retainer. Angle your toothbrush correctly to reach every surface of every tooth, taking special care with the area behind the fixed retainer. Brush thoroughly but gently to ensure you don’t damage the metal wire.
Flossing with a fixed retainer can take some practice. Dental tools like Waterpiks, floss threaders, or orthodontic dental floss can help clean the hard-to-reach areas between the wire and the teeth. Avoid or moderate certain foods that can damage a fixed retainer, including crunchy or sticky snacks, and keep up with regular dental visits to keep plaque and cavities under control. Dr. Sandifer will also be happy to provide you with advice or give you a demonstration if needed.
Hawley retainers are probably one of the most recognizable orthodontic appliances we have outside of braces. They are kept in place by a wire wrapping around the teeth, combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of the mouth. Although many orthodontists have been moving away from Hawley retainers recently, they can still be useful for some patients.
If you get a Hawley retainer, you’ll need to clean it daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and non-abrasive toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria. For a deeper clean, you can soak the retainer in denture cleaner for a short period. Washing your retainer in hot water or leaving it in a hot car can warp the material and affect how the retainer fits in your mouth, so keep it away from extreme temperatures.
Essix retainers are very popular with orthodontists and patients. They’re made from transparent plastic and look similar to the trays we use with the Invisalign clear aligner system. Your retainer fits the unique shape of your mouth and can last for quite a while with the proper care. Fortunately, this is a very simple process!
Brush and floss your teeth before wearing your retainer. When you take it out, clean it immediately, so saliva doesn’t dry on the trays. You can brush your Essix retainer with lukewarm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. If it needs a deeper cleaning, mix mild dish soap with the water and scrub gently using a toothbrush or denture brush. If your aligner has grooves, a cotton swab will help clean those areas more thoroughly.
You can also soak Essix retainers in a denture solution like Efferdent or Polident. Cleaning solutions are also designed specifically for use with clear retainers. We can recommend a solution for you to use with your retainer if you’re interested in this option.
Any removable retainer is easy to misplace or lose! Avoid placing your retainer in a napkin, or anywhere they’re exposed to the elements. Any time you aren’t using your appliance put it in the case and keep it in a safe place.
Keep your smile looking its best with care from Sandifer Orthodontics
Most experts now agree that wearing some retainer indefinitely is the best way to keep straight teeth in place for the long haul. This recommendation can seem overwhelming at first but don’t worry-most retainer wear is part-time and will become just another part of your daily routine in no time. Get in touch with our Brandon or Jackson office today to learn more about how retainers work or schedule a FREE consultation.