Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

At Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics, we know that moving into the retention phase (the process of maintaining teeth alignment) can be challenging, especially after the excitement of ending active treatment.

Nevertheless, this phase is a crucial part of your orthodontic treatment. You put in a lot of work to receive the stunning and healthy smile of your dreams. You don’t want that work to go to waste! There are a few things you can do to preserve your alignment, and one of them is to wear and care for your retainer.

Let’s examine why it’s important and how to do it!

What Is A Retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that holds your teeth in their new positions. 

You might wonder, “Why do we conclude active treatment if my teeth aren’t ready?” Well, during active treatment, we apply pressure to the teeth. This pressure softens the bones and ligaments in the mouth, allowing teeth movement. When we finish active treatment, it’s because we are satisfied with the position of the teeth and want to remove that pressure to prevent further progression. Unfortunately, the mouth needs a little more time to stabilize. Teeth will try to return to their original places, also known as regression, and your retainer prevents that from happening! 

Retainers can be fixed or removable. Fixed retainers sit behind the teeth and can only be taken off by an orthodontic professional. Removable retainers, like the Hawley or Essix retainers, can and should be removed by the patient for eating and performing oral hygiene.

If you have a removable retainer, it’s essential to wear it as Dr. Cowan or Dr. Whitaker prescribes. Forgetting or neglecting to wear your retainer can result in needing to restart active treatment.

Cleaning Your Retainers.

Just like your braces or clear aligners, your retainers need to be properly cleaned! A cleaned retainer reduces bacteria, plaque, and germs in the mouth that can cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss, among other issues. 

How to clean your retainer depends on your retainer style, so be sure to ask Dr. Cowan or Dr. Whitaker for instructions on the proper technique. Before we discuss some cleaning retainer basics, we must remind you to ask your orthodontist before using any product on your retainers! Every manufacturer uses a different material; what is safe for one kind might not be for another.

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

The good news is that it should only take a few minutes a day, no matter the process.

Removable Retainers

These steps should be done when you perform your regular oral hygiene twice daily.

  1. Remove the retainers from the mouth.
  2. Wet with lukewarm water. Extreme temperatures can warp the material, so be careful.
  3. Apply unscented antibacterial soap. 
  4. Gently brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Rough scrubbing or hard bristles can damage the surface of the retainer, making them uncomfortable and more visible when worn.
  5. Thoroughly rinse with water to remove any soap residue.
  6. Allow to dry completely before wearing.

Another way to clean your retainer is with white vinegar, but this should only be done once a week for a deeper clean. 

A clean removable retainer is more inviting to wear because it smells and tastes fresh, so you have an increased chance of having a successful retention phase if you take care of it.

Fixed Retainers

These retainers might be a little more tricky to clean, but with enough practice, it will become second nature!

To floss with your fixed retainer, you will need to slip the floss between the teeth to reach the gums under the appliance. If you have difficulty getting the floss through, floss threaders are an excellent item to try! We also recommend investing in a water flosser if you haven’t already. These devices use jets of water to rid the mouth of stubborn plaque and food particles that might be left behind after traditional floss and brushing. They are perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach places and keeping a fixed orthodontic appliance spotless. Lastly, give your retainer a gentle scrub with the toothbrush when you brush your teeth. 

That’s it! It might be a little frustrating at first to clean a fixed retainer, but once you form a routine, it will seem like nothing!

What To Do With Removable Retainers When You’re Not Wearing Them.

Removable retainers are thin and small for comfort, sometimes even transparent for a low-profile aesthetic. Unluckily, those same features can make them easy to lose or break! Retainers are removed to eat at restaurants, movie theaters, festivals, parks, friends’ houses, and other locations. They are also taken out at hotels, motels, friends’ and family’s houses, and more for cleaning and oral hygiene. They are also left behind, lost, in trashcans, or chewed up by pets in every single one of those environments.

Please put them in their protective cases when you are not wearing your removable retainers! These cases are a defense against physical damage and a barrier layer against germs. They are also vital in loss prevention — they take up more visible and physical space, so it’s easy to know where your retainers are at all times.

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Visit Cowan & Whitaker Orthodontics For Your Retainer Needs!

The transition into the retention period can be confusing and frustrating. We are passionate about patient education so that you can make informed decisions and understand why we instruct or prescribe something for you. 

Retainers can always be replaced, but we strongly encourage you to wear and maintain your retainer for the best retention results. If you have questions, contact us to speak to a dedicated and welcoming team member or book an appointment! We would love to help make your retention phase and retainer experience as easy as possible. 

We look forward to seeing you soon!