Finally, you have finished your treatment with braces, and your orthodontist has given you a retainer. The next couple of things you have to do is wear your retainer and keep it clean. Here, our Manitoba dentists share tips on how you can maintain your retainer and keep it clean.
How to Keep Your Retainer Clean
An important part of your oral hygiene routine is keeping your retainer fresh and clean. Below we have listed some ways you can help ensure your retainer lasts as long as possible and is clean every day you wear it.
1: Regularly clean your retainer.
Because retainers are on your teeth it's important to keep them clean so they can do their job and protect your oral health from the effects of a dirty retainer.
If you have a removable retainer you will be able to clean it with lukewarm water after every meal. To give it a deeper clean, you can try to mix mild dish soap into the warm water. Do not use toothpaste to clean your retainer, because it could be abrasive and scratch the surface, giving bacteria the perfect place to hide.
Bonded or Fixed retainers should be flossed every day. Move a 6-inch piece of floss under the retainer's wire, bringing it up and down between your teeth, all the way to the gum line (and below the gum line if possible). Then slide the floss sideways to the next area to be cleaned. Continue this process with each tooth that is attached to your permanent retainer.
2: Heat isn't friendly to Your retainer.
Though you may enjoy a hot summer day spent at the beach or a hot tea on a cold winter’s day, your retainer won’t. In addition to debris getting stuck in your retainer in these cases, leaving it out in the heat can render it useless.
Though your retainer is a marvel of modern engineering, it’s still a piece of plastic that will warp if left on your car’s dashboard on a July day (oops) or in your mouth when you sip on that hot drink. Since your retainer is custom-made to precisely fit your mouth, any warping will result in it becoming misshapen and less effective at holding your teeth in place. So, always handle with care – and clean only with warm water, never hot.
3: You don't need to use harsh chemicals.
You can forgo harsh cleansers and chemicals when cleaning your retainer and simply clean it using the dish soap/water combination mentioned above.
If you are worried about bacteria such as Streptococcus, which causes strep throat, chemical cleaning tablets can be used to kill these. Otherwise, your routine soap and water should suffice.
4. Only soak it as long as you need to.
If you use cleaning tablets to soak your retainer you might want to set an alarm on your phone (ask your orthodontist how long you should soak your specific retainer brand, or check the packaging on the tablets).
You may also soak your retainer in mouthwash to keep it smelling fresh - just add an equal amount of lukewarm water. And only use mouthwash to soak your retainer occasionally if it contains alcohol.
5. Keep your retainer in its case
Removable retainers can be a double-edged sword. You can take them out to eat, which makes eating easier, but if you tend to be absent-minded, you could find yourself losing your retainer or leaving it at risk of getting dirty or damaged.
Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.
6. Replace it as required.
As with anything else, retainers have a useful lifespan. Over time they could loosen and not fit your teeth as snugly as they did before, or calcium might build up and start to impact how the retainer fits, despite doing your best to keep it clean.
When things like this happen, you will need to get a new retainer. At Assiniboine Dental Group, we are able to create an impression of your teeth and have a brand new retainer made for you.
7. Remember to keep a spare retainer on hand.
Mishaps happen. Retainers become lost, damaged in the scenarios mentioned above, or they just wear out. Because getting a new retainer may take time, you’ll want to keep a spare one on hand to use in the meantime to prevent your teeth from shifting (especially a danger in the first few months after your braces are removed).