Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Now that your braces are removed, or you have finished your last set of clear aligners, it’s time to move into the retention period! 

Retention is the phase of orthodontic care after active treatment, where we prioritize keeping your new alignment in place. For this process, DiMarzio Orthodontics will provide you with a custom-made retainer!

Okay, but what IS a retainer, and why do I need it?

You be wondering, “Why do I need a retainer if my teeth are good enough to finish active treatment?” That’s a great question!

During active treatment, the pressure we apply to your teeth softens the bones and ligaments in the mouth, allowing teeth movement. When we conclude active treatment, it’s because we’re satisfied with their position, and we need to relieve that pressure to prevent further progression. The mouth, however, requires a little more time to stabilize and become accustomed to the new living situation. Your teeth also need time to feel at home in their new locations. 

That’s why retainers are so important! They hold the teeth in their final positions while everything settles. Without a retainer, your teeth will try to move back, or regress, into their original positions! 

It may be hard to get excited about retainers after all the built-up anticipation of finishing braces or clear aligner treatment, but they are crucial to the retention process. Neglecting or forgetting to wear your retainer can lead to a restart in active treatment.

How should you clean your retainer?

Before and throughout active treatment, we at DiMarzio Orthodontics (and likely your dentist) stressed the necessity of a consistent oral hygiene routine with good, healthy habits. Proper oral hygiene clears the mouth of bacteria and plaque that cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and other complications! We encouraged thorough brushing and flossing for a healthy mouth and beautiful smile before, during, and after orthodontic treatment.

Entering the retention phase and receiving your retainer does not mean you can relax your regimen! Did you know your retainer can collect the same bacteria and plaque that harm your smile? It’s true! Maintaining your oral hygiene and cleaning your retainer is essential to preserving your health and new look! 

Luckily, it only takes a few minutes. 

Removable Retainer

Proper care for your removable retainer can vary depending on whether you have the Hawley or Essix style or the product’s manufacturer, but we’ll go over some basics that should be safe for most removable retainers, if not all. Let’s get started!

  1. Remove the retainers from your mouth.
  2. Wet with clean, lukewarm water. Extreme temperatures can warp the retainers, so use caution!
  3. Apply unscented antibacterial soap.
  4. Brush with care! Gently scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush, separate from the one used to brush your teeth. Scrubbing with too much force or stiff bristles can harm the surface of the aligner. This can make them uncomfortable to wear or make discreet aligners more visible.
  5. Rinse thoroughly to remove any residue.
  6. Allow to dry completely before wearing.

Fixed Retainers

Truthfully, fixed retainers might require a little more practice to get the hang of cleaning. It can be hard to get in the nooks and crannies in and around the retainer, but we promise it’s worth the effort!

  1. Floss! You’ve got to clean your gums! To do so, slip the floss between the teeth and under the fixed retainer. You can try floss threaders if you’re struggling to get the floss between the teeth!
  2. Use a water flosser. These devices use jets of water to rid the mouth of stubborn bacteria, plaque, or food particles. They should be used in addition to traditional flossing, not as a replacement!
  3. When you brush your teeth, give your retainer a gentle scrub. 

It might be challenging at first, but when you feel frustrated, think about how happy you were when you completed active treatment! All that work was worth it, and doing these steps ensures that it wasn’t for nothing!

Add the appropriate process to your twice-daily oral hygiene routine for the best results.

Remember to ask Dr. DiMarzio or Dr. Marczak before applying any product to your retainers! Different materials react differently to the same product, and you don’t want to damage your retainer!

How do you protect your removable retainer?

Removable retainers should be taken out of the mouth for cleaning, eating, and drinking anything other than water. There are plenty of places where one might remove the retainer, such as restaurants, movie theaters, festivals, sporting events, work parties, house parties, your aunt’s house out-of-state, hotels, motels, airport bathrooms, public parks, amusement parks, sleepovers, and more! 

That’s a lot of places where your retainer might be thrown away, stepped on, left behind accidentally, misplaced, or even chewed on by an animal! 

When you get your retainer, you will also be given a case! The case is a defender against physical harm and germs and, because cases take up more visual real estate that retainers, make them easier to keep track of! If you are not wearing your retainers for whatever reason, put them in their cases!

DiMarzio Orthodontics is here for you every step of the way!

Retainers can always be replaced, but at DiMarzio Orthodontics, we believe you get the best retention results when your retainers are well taken care of. 

We also believe that quality results start with quality information! If you have any questions regarding your retainer or its care, please contact our office to speak to a knowledgeable team member or book an appointment with Dr. DiMarzio or Dr. Marczak.

We love helping you achieve and maintain your smile goals before, during, and after active treatment. Our entire team is excited to see you!