Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

This is the appointment that every Brady Orthodontics patient circles on their calendar; the moment we’ve all been waiting for — the day your braces are removed or the day Dr. Brady tells you that you don’t need to wear clear aligners anymore.

A lot of hard work has gone into this day. You likely suffered from food cravings for off-limits items and experienced discomfort. Maybe you even felt self-conscious throughout treatment. But you stuck it out, and your smile and jaw are beautifully aligned!

Now, there’s only one thing left to do before you can show off your new look — prepare you for your retainer!

What is a retainer, and why do you need it?

The pressure we apply to your teeth softens the surrounding bones and ligaments in your mouth to allow the teeth to move. When we take your braces off or complete your clear aligner treatment, it’s because your teeth are where we want them to stay. Unfortunately, however, those softened bones and ligaments need a little more time to become situated and to fill in the gaps where your teeth used to be. That is why we issue you a retainer to wear.

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that holds the teeth in place while the mouth adjusts to the changes we’ve made. Brady Orthodontics fixed retainers that sit behind the teeth, Hawley retainers with a metal wire in front of the teeth, and Essix retainers that look similar to clear aligners. All three kinds of retainers have pros and cons, and Dr. Brady will recommend the one that he thinks is best for you and your situation. 

To maintain your alignment, it is crucial to wear it as prescribed by the orthodontist. Teeth have amazing memories and prefer their original spots almost all the time. If you don’t wear your retainer, they will take advantage of that time and space to shift back to their old positions. We know it can be hard to get into the habit of wearing your retainer when you’re buzzing with joy from finishing active treatment, but it needs to be done! Neglecting or forgetting to wear your retainer often enough could result in restarting active treatment.

How do you clean your retainers?

Think of your retainers as a new best friend:

  • You don’t ever want to go anywhere without them.
  • Every day is better when you have them.
  • You’ll keep them around for a while.

Luckily, though, they require a lot less maintenance than maintaining a friendship.

Retainers can develop the same bacteria and plaque as your mouth does. That bacteria and plaque can cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and other complications that could permanently damage your smile. You’ll want to take a few minutes to clean your retainers.

The best way to clean your retainer depends on the kind of retainer that you have. Let’s take a look at how to clean the different retainers.

Removable Retainers

The Hawley and Essix retainers have a very similar cleaning process— the only difference is the cleaning product! For the Essix retainer, you will need an unscented antibacterial soap, lukewarm water, and a soft-bristled toothbrush separate from the one used for your teeth. For the Hawley, you could use the soap or a nonabrasive, non-whitening toothpaste! 

  1. First, wet the retainers with the lukewarm water. Extreme temperatures can warp the appliances, so be careful!
  2. Apply the cleaning product.
  3. Gently scrub with the soft-bristled toothbrush.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with water.
  5. Allow to dry completely before wearing.

That’s it! There are cleaning solutions or home remedies that you can use if you require deeper cleaning, but ask Dr. Brady before using any product (even toothpaste!) on your retainers.

Fixed Retainers

These are a little more tricky to clean, but with a little practice, it will be easy peasy!

Before we talk about how to clean the retainer, let’s talk about how to floss while you have a fixed retainer. You don’t want to skip the teeth attached to the retainer; you need to get to clean the gums under it! To do so, slip the floss between the teeth under the retainer and then floss like normal. If you have difficulty with that, get some floss threaders to help!

Next, you’ll want to use a water flosser to get those hard-to-reach areas and remove any stubborn bacteria, plaque, and food particles from the retainer and mouth. 

Lastly, give your retainer a gentle scrub with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

It might be a little frustrating at first to clean a fixed retainer, but don’t give up! You’ll nail down a routine faster than you think, and your mouth will thank you.

What do you do with retainers when you’re not wearing them?

Removable retainers are small and easy to damage or lose. Plenty are lost or accidentally left in public places, end up in trash cans, or are found in a beloved pet’s mouth, chewed beyond repair every year. Some get stepped on or fall behind furniture that never moves. While retainers can always be replaced, keeping track of and protecting your appliances produces the best retention results.

The most effective and easiest way to keep them safe is to put them in their protective case! The case safeguards them from physical damage and, because it takes up more space, helps you know where they are at all times. 

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Contact Brady Orthodontics for all your retainer needs!

Do you have more questions about how to care for your retainers? Want to find out more information about them before you are prescribed one? Need a replacement retainer?

Brady Orthodontics is happy to help! Please contact us to speak to a team member or book an appointment. Our staff is dedicated to your orthodontic education so you can feel comfortable and make informed decisions regarding your care. 

We can’t wait to see you!