Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Today’s the day you’ve been waiting for since you walked through Champlain Orthodonics’s doors — the final day of active treatment! Dr. Ryan or Dr. Eaton are taking your braces off or telling you they don’t need to issue new Invisalign trays!

You have put a lot of work into this day! You wore rubber bands, suffered through discomfort, and adjusted your diet. Now your smile alignment is everything you’ve wanted it to be! Our entire team is proud of you!

There’s just one more phase of orthodontic treatment left — the retention phase!

What is a retainer?

When you wear braces or clear aligners, pressure is applied to your teeth to gently move and guide them into their desired positions. This pressure softens the ligaments and bones in your mouth to allow for movement. When Dr. Ryan or Dr. Eaton conclude your active treatment, it is because your teeth are where they need to be, and we have to relieve that pressure to stop further progression. Unfortunately, the mouth needs a little more time to adjust and stabilize around the teeth’s new homes, which is why you will be issued a retainer.

Because your teeth have amazing memories and don’t understand why they’ve moved, they will try to shift back, or regress, to their original spots. Your retainer will do as its name suggests; it will retain your teeth in place as the mouth stabilizes! 

Retainers can be fixed or removable, and which one is best for you depends on your unique situation. Your orthodontist will discuss the pros and cons with you when it is time and help you pick the best option. 

If you do get one of the removable retainers we offer (Hawley or Essix), it is crucial that you wear it as directed! Forgetting or neglecting to wear your retainer could result in a restart of active treatment.

How do I clean my retainer?

Just like your braces or clear aligners, retainers need to be cleaned! They can develop the same bacteria and plaque that causes bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease, among other concerns. To keep your smile looking and feeling healthy, clean your retainer twice a day!

The proper way to clean your retainer depends entirely on the kind of retainer you have, but it will only take a few minutes! Before we dive into how to clean them, we need to remind you to always ask your orthodontist before applying any products to your retainer! Every manufacturer uses different materials; what works for one kind will not work with another.

Removable Retainers

The Hawley or the Essix styles have very similar cleaning techniques. In fact, the only difference is the cleaning product(s) you can use! 

You will need:

  • nonabrasive, non-whitening toothpaste OR an unscented, antibacterial soap
  • lukewarm water
  • a soft-bristled toothbrush

The steps:

  • Wet the retainers with lukewarm water. Ensure the water is lukewarm, as extreme temperatures can warp the aligners.
  • Apply the clean product. The Hawley retainer can use either the toothpaste or the soap, but the Essix retainer can only use the soap! 
  • Gently scrub with the toothbrush.
  • Thoroughly rinse with lukewarm water.
  • Allow to dry completely before wearing.

Fixed Retainer

Truthfully, a fixed retainer might require a little more practice to get the hang of its cleaning routine, but don’t give up on it!

To floss, slip the floss through the teeth under the fixed retainer. Next, we recommend going in with a water flosser. These devices use jets of water to rid the mouth of stubborn plaque and food particles that may get left behind by brushing and thread floss. Then finally, give your fixed retainer a gentle scrub with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

It can be challenging to get into the nooks and crannies in and around your retainer, but it’s essential that you do! The more you practice, the easier it will become, so keep trying!

Complete the appropriate steps twice daily when you perform your regular oral hygiene routine to have clean retainers and maintain a healthy mouth!

If you desire or require deeper cleaning, speak to your orthodontist about the options available!

What do I do with my removable retainer when I am not wearing it?

Removable retainers are thin and small — and, sometimes, transparent! These features make them comfortable and discreet but also easy to lose or break! Retainers are left behind on restaurant tables, forever misplaced, and become an animal’s chew toy all the time! 

To best protect them from germs and physical harm, place them in their protective cases whenever you are not wearing them! Because cases take up more space and are easier to see, they make it difficult to lose your retainers!

Why do I need to take such good care of it if I only need it for a little while?

That is an excellent question. At first, you will likely wear your retainer 24/7, except for eating, drinking, and performing your oral hygiene. Eventually, how long you need to wear it daily and for how many days a week will decrease.

But, and we hate to be the bearer of bad news, there is unlikely to be a time when you do not need your retainer. Teeth can shift at any time for any number of reasons. A retainer is there to preserve all your hard work and your desired alignment throughout your life.

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Have more questions? Champlain Orthodontics has the answers!

Champlain Orthodontics is honored to have been trusted with your orthodontic journey and is excited to help you maintain your alignment.

We know the transition into the retention phase can be confusing or frustrating, and our goal is to make it easy for you! If you have any questions, need a new retainer, or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We are passionate about patient education so you can make informed decisions and feel at ease throughout every stage of treatment! 

We look forward to seeing you soon!