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Caring For Your Retainer

Caring For Your Retainer

Once you've completed your orthodontic treatment, you will need to wear a retainer to ensure your teeth don't shift back into a misaligned position but how do you care for your retainer? Our Straight Smile Dentists in Surrey explain.

Different Types Of Retainers

There are two distinct types of retainers: fixed and removable. There are actually two subcategories of removable ones as well. The care each one takes will depend on the type of retainer that you have. 

  • Hawley Retainer - This type is molded out of acrylic to fit your mouth. They have a wire that helps hold the retainer in place. This type of retainer is removable, so it’s easy to clean.
  • Essix Clear Plastic Retainer - These retainers slip over your teeth and are pretty much transparent. They’re easy to remove but aren’t as durable as Hawley retainers.
  • Fixed or Bonded Retainers - These may also be called permanent retainers. These are actually attached to your lower front teeth. They’re used if you have a high risk of your teeth shifting. You can’t remove this type of retainer. It’s usually put into place for months or even years.

Do I Have To Clean My Retainer?

If you need a retainer, you might be concerned that you don't know how to care for them. Your retainer will sit inside your mouth and against your teeth, so it can get gross pretty fast. Bacteria will accumulate as well as plaque and tartar. 

If you wear a retainer, you might be wondering how to care for it. Your retainer sits inside your mouth and against your teeth, so it quickly accumulates bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Just like you brush your teeth every day, it’s important to clean your retainer every day.

Cleaning Hawley and Essix Retainers

Both Hawley and clear plastic retainers can be removed from your mouth for daily cleaning.

To clean your Hawley or clear plastic retainer, follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you clean your retainer as soon as you remove it from your mouth, while it’s still wet. This will make it easier to clean off any debris before it hardens.
  2. Brush out your retainer with lukewarm water after each meal. It’s a good idea to brush your teeth at this time as well.
  3. For a deeper clean, mix lukewarm water with mild dish soap (toothpastes are abrasive and can scratch the retainer’s surface). Use a soft toothbrush or denture brush to gently scrub away plaque and other debris.
  4. If necessary, use a cotton swab to get into the deepest grooves and ridges on clear plastic retainers.
  5. Ask your dentist about soaking your retainer in a denture or retainer cleaner, like Efferdent or Polident. If they recommend soaking, mix a cup of lukewarm water with one tablet of cleaner and follow the package instructions for timing.

If you notice debris on your retainer that won’t come off, take it to your dentist or orthodontist. There are special solutions that can remove stubborn tartar.

Cleaning Fixed or Bonded Retainers

These types of retainers are actually bonded to your teeth so flossing them every day will be the best way to keep them clean. This process can feel strange and intimidating at first, but you'll eventually get used to the whole process. Here’s how to clean your permanent retainer:

  1. Grab a 6-inch piece of floss and use a floss threader to thread the floss between your two front lower teeth.
  2. Hold one end of the floss with your fingers and the other with the threader.
  3. Once you get the floss under your retainer wire, simply move it up and down between the teeth all the way to the gum line. The floss should gently go below the gum line if possible.
  4. Slide the floss sideways to the next area you want to clean. Pull down until it’s between your teeth.
  5. Repeat this process with each tooth that’s attached to your permanent retainer.

If you’re having a hard time flossing, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your dentist or orthodontist. They can help guide your technique and provide more tips.

More Tips To Care For Your Retainer

Clean Your Retainer Regularly

Pretend that your retainers are the same as your own teeth. You should carefully scrub your retainer with a toothbrush and water every time you take them out of your mouth. Avoid brushing the retainer with toothpaste, as it can be abrasive and scratch your retainer which can make it more difficult to clean keep your retainer clean.

Wear Your Retainer Often

Use your retainer as often as recommended by your orthodontist. Your retainer is an important final step in your orthodontic treatment and they only work if you use them!

Avoid Heat On Your Retainer

Your retainer will only work if it remained properly fitted to your teeth! Your dentist will make sure it is custom fitted to your teeth but it’s up to you to make sure it stays that way. Avoid leaving your retainer in a hot environment, such as a windowsill or a hot car. It can melt or wrap. Never put it in boiling water; you may think that boiling it is a great way to make it as clean as possible, but the heat will ruin it.

Keep Your Retainer Away From Pets

If your dog likes to chew everything, chances are they would be happy to destroy your retainer if given the opportunity. Keep your retainer safe and away from pets at all times.

Avoid Putting Napkins On Your Retainer

If you wrap your retainer in a napkin during meals, it can be easy for you or an unsuspecting waiter to throw it in the trash accidentally. To avoid this, keep your retainer in its storage box.

Soak Your Retainer

You can give your retainer a bit of an extra clean by soaking it. You can buy special cleaner for your retainer in tablet form or you can even make your own cleaning solution consisting of 1 part soidum hypochlorite with ten parts of water. Soak for 5-10 minutes, and your retainer will be clean.

Replace Your Retainer When Needed

Even the best retainers eventually wear out. If you find that your retainer is deteriorating or behaving differently, contact your dentist. Replacing your retainer when due is an important part of maintaining your smile.

Carefully Put On And Take Off Your Retainer

When you put on your stand, make sure it is always on. There should be no gap between the teeth and the support. When removing it, do not twist it with your tongue or pull it to one side. Otherwise, the retainer may get damaged. Loosen your retainer in several places when you remove it and then ease it off. Do not forget to store it in its storage box!

Brush Your Teeth Before And After Wearing Your Retainer

Before and after putting on your retainer, brush your teeth. If you put your support on dirty teeth, your support will get dirty much faster, and it is not good for your teeth

Keep Your Retainer One Spot

It sounds obvious, but do not lose your retainer! Always keep it in the bag when not in use and keep it out of reach of dogs or children. If you lose it, make sure you replace it.

If you would like to learn more about your retainer, contact a Straight Smile Centres member practice in Surrey today. We can make sure you have a properly fitted retainer. 

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