Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

You put in a lot of hard work to reach the conclusion of active treatment and to have a healthy smile you have proud of. We know it wasn’t always easy to work through food cravings, discomfort, or even feelings of self-consciousness during treatment. But you did it, and our Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics team is so proud of you!

Now it’s time to preserve all that hard work in the retention phase! To do this, we will issue you a retainer.

Wait, why do I need a retainer?

The pressure we apply to your teeth does more than guide them to their desired locations. It also softens the surrounding bones and ligaments to allow for teeth movement. When we finish active treatment, it’s because we need to relieve the pressure to prevent further progression. The teeth have found their new homes! However, the mouth is still soft and pliable and will need more time to stabilize. Unfortunately, the teeth will take advantage of this and try to move back to their original locations!

That’s where your retainer comes in! Retainers do as their name suggests — they retain the teeth and keep them from moving as the mouth gets situated. 

What are the different kinds of retainers?

These orthodontic appliances can be removable or fixed. Both types have their pros and cons. Dr. Farrow and Dr. Dewbre will discuss them with you and recommend the best for you and your unique situation!

Removable retainers can and should be removed by patients for eating, drinking, cleaning, and oral hygiene. They come in either the Hawley or the Essix style. The Hawley retainer with the wire on the outside of the teeth is what you likely think of when you think of an orthodontic retainer. The Essix retainer is transparent for a discreet, aesthetic option. They look almost identical to clear aligners. It is crucial to wear your removable retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist. Failure to do so could mean a restart in active treatment if the teeth shift enough.

You won’t have to remember to wear a fixed retainer! These are bonded to the back of the teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontic professional!

Retainers must require a lot of cleaning, right?

Wrong! Retainers are relatively low-maintenance appliances. Cleaning them only takes a few minutes! Let’s go over the steps of washing your retainers.

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is ImportantRemovable retainers

  1. Remove them from the mouth.
  2. Wet with lukewarm water. Extreme temperatures can warp the material, so double-check the temp!
  3. Apply unscented antibacterial soap or nonabrasive toothpaste. Harsh products can damage your retainers and make them uncomfortable or visible when worn. Ask your orthodontist before applying any products to your appliances!
  4. Gently brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush separate from the one used to brush the teeth. Scrubbing with too much force can also damage the retainers’ surface, so be careful!
  5. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
  6. Allow to dry completely before wear.

An unclean removable retainer quickly develops a foul taste and smell, which is not inviting when you need to wear it for hours every day! Doing these steps just once a day boosts your chances of successfully maintaining your alignment.

Fixed retainers

  1. To floss, slip the thread through the teeth and under the retainer. If you have difficulty with this, try floss threaders!
  2. Use a water flosser to remove stubborn particles that could be left behind by traditional flossing or brushing.
  3. Gently scrub your retainer with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

We will admit it might be a little more difficult to clean your fixed retainer because of all the nooks and crannies, but we promise it’s worth it!

No matter your retainer type, consistent practice will make you a pro at your routine! Cleaning your appliance is essential because it removes bacteria and plaque that can cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and other issues that can permanently harm your smile!

What about when I am not wearing the removable retainers?

Removable retainers are small, thin, and (sometimes!) transparent. This makes them fragile and easy to lose. Think of all the places you might eat, drink, or perform oral hygiene, such as:

  • Restaurants
  • Hotels or motels
  • Festivals
  • Public parks at a picnic
  • Concerts
  • Sporting events
  • Airports
  • Aunt Carol’s house
  • Your best friend’s house
  • Ikea’s food court
  • The mall

And the list goes on! We say all this to emphasize all the places your retainer might be misplaced, get dirty, left behind accidentally, stepped on, thrown away, or even chewed up by a beloved pet!

To best protect your retainers, put them in their case when you are not wearing them! It’s a quick and easy way to keep them in good condition and make them easier to keep up with.

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is ImportantHave questions? Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics have answers!

Retainers can always be replaced, but for the best retention results, it’s best to keep them clean and in good physical condition!

At Farrow & Dewbre Orthodontics, we know that many circumstances and situations in life might make caring for your retainer challenging or confusing. That’s why we are here to provide all the guidance and advice you need!

Please contact one of our conveniently located offices to get answers to your questions by speaking to a knowledgeable team member or by booking an appointment with our experienced orthodontists.

We can’t wait to see you!