How to Take Care of Your Retainer and Newly Aligned Smile
After months of persevering with orthodontic treatment, you’ve finally said goodbye to your braces or aligners and hello to your super new smile. Now comes the final step in the process – your retainer, which is crucial to ensure your teeth stay in their new position and maintain your newly aligned smile.
The reason you need a retainer is all to do with the anatomy of your jaw and how periodontal ligaments attach your teeth to supporting bone. Without a retainer, these ligaments will revert to their original position – and so will your teeth.
As well as using your retainer as instructed by your orthodontist, you need to keep it in good condition for optimum results. Alongside a routine of diligent oral hygiene, this will help to ensure you keep your beautiful smile for life.
So, let’s look at how to take care of your retainer and newly aligned smile, including the importance of cleaning your retainer, whether it’s removable or permanent.
Looking After Removable Retainers
Removable retainers facilitate brushing and flossing, but you need to keep your retainer clean as well your teeth and gums.
If you don’t clean your retainer regularly, it can accumulate bacteria and plaque, and begin to taste and smell unpleasant. The types of bacteria that get onto retainers can cause issues such as yeast infection, particularly nasty if your immune system isn’t up to scratch.
Cleaning Your Retainer
Cleaning your retainer is just as important as brushing your teeth and gums, and basically entails:
- Washing your retainer daily in warm water and dish soap.
- Brushing your retainer after each meal to remove food debris. You can use a mild toothpaste on some – but not all – types of retainers. If in doubt, check with your orthodontist.
If you have a Hawley retainer and use cleansing tablets, be aware that soaking it too long can rust the metal components.
It’s also a good idea to clean your retainer case daily before putting your retainer away:
- Gently scrub all surfaces in warm soapy water.
- Rinse and pat dry.
General Care of Your Retainer
Exposure to excessive heat can warp your retainer, so remove it when you have hot drinks, and keep it away from:
- Direct sunlight.
- Hot water.
- Washers and dryers.
- Car dashboards.
You also need to be careful to avoid losing, misplacing or damaging your retainer, and bear in mind it can pick up harmful bacteria if left lying around.
Replacing Your Retainer
Looking after your retainer properly will prolong its lifespan but there will come a time when it has to be replaced because of general wear and tear.
Some types of retainers may last five to 10 years with proper care while others may need to be replaced every six months or so.
Looking After Permanent Retainers
A fixed retainer is bonded to your teeth and needs extra care with flossing to keep it clean. The process may seem tricky at first but you can get the hang of it with a little patience.
As well as flossing as normal – every night before bed – you need to make sure you get between the retainer and the back of your teeth to dislodge food particles. Make sure to floss both above and below the retainer to clean all the nooks and crannies.
When brushing your teeth – every morning and night – use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, and take extra time with your retainer, scrubbing with the brush held vertically.
It’s particularly important to get regular dental exams if you have a permanent retainer. This enables your dentist to monitor the condition of your retainer as well as your teeth and gums.
Nurturing Your New Smile
Looking after your teeth and gums as well as your retainer is key to getting the best outcome from your orthodontic treatment – a long-lasting newly aligned smile.
A good routine of oral hygiene and a wholesome diet, supported by professional preventive dental care, will go a long way toward ensuring your teeth and your smile remain straight and healthy and your retainer in good condition.
Oral Hygiene at Home
You can play a big part yourself in your oral healthcare by:
- Using an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Flossing daily to remove plaque and food debris your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Brushing your teeth at least twice a day.
- Replacing your brush or electric toothbrush head every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles start to wear.
- Always brushing and flossing before putting in your removable retainer.
- Rinsing your mouth after sugary foods or drinks that can stain your teeth.
If you’ve been wearing fixed braces, you’ll recall that effective brushing and flossing was probably difficult, potentially resulting in plaque build-up, so you may want to be particularly conscientious about your oral health afterward.
Preventive and Oral Healthcare and Cosmetic Options
Dental check-ups and professional cleanings every six months will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, while enabling your dentist to keep an eye on your retainer.
If your teeth have become stained – especially after wearing fixed braces – you might want to think about professional teeth whitening to add a sparkle to your new smile. Further cosmetic options include teeth reshaping and dental veneers.
Maintaining a nutritious diet is important to help keep your teeth and gums healthy and your new smile looking its best. Limit or avoid acidic or sugary foods and drinks in favor of dairy products and leafy greens.
Continue Smiling with Confidence!
Retainers can be a lifelong commitment in maintaining your smile, and failing to use your retainer properly can result in the need for further orthodontic treatment. Looking after your retainer correctly is also vital to maintain your newly aligned smile.
Eating healthily, combined with a sound routine of oral hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, will also help to keep you smiling with confidence.