Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Our Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics team has had so much fun getting to know you and watching your smile transform over the past few months or years.

We are just as excited to help you maintain the results of your braces or clear aligners treatment with your retainer during the next phase of orthodontic treatment — retention! Retention is the processing of upkeeping your new alignment after active treatment. 

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of retainers and how you can get the most out of using them!

What does a retainer do?

The pressure we apply to your teeth with braces or clear aligners softens the bones and ligaments in the mouth to allow for teeth movement. When your teeth are in the desired locations, we end active treatment because we need to relieve that pressure to prevent further progression. 

Unfortunately, the mouth is still soft, and there’s plenty of leeway for teeth to continue moving — but backward! This process of teeth shifting back to their original positions is called regression.

That’s why you need a retainer! Retainers are orthodontic appliances that hold the teeth in place after active treatment. They are crucial to retention because they retain your new look while the mouth stabilizes. 

Retainers can be removable, like the Hawley or Essix styles, or fixed. Removable retainers can and should be removed by wearers for eating, drinking, cleaning, and oral hygiene. Fixed retainers are bonded to the teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontic professional. 

Failure to wear your retainers as prescribed gives the teeth the time and space they need to regress. If they shift enough, it could prompt a restart of active treatment.

Should retainers be cleaned?

Yes! These appliances can harbor bacteria and plaque that cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and other complications! A well-maintained retainer reduces the amount of germs in the mouth, and keeping them clean is vital to a successful retention phase. 

How to clean your retainer depends on the retainer style that you have, but luckily it only takes a few minutes no matter the process! Before we go over some retainer cleaning basics, we must remind you to always ask Dr. Hamer or Dr. Glassick prior to applying any products to your retainers. 

Removable Retainers

After removing your retainers from your mouth, you need to do the following:

  1. Wet your retainers with clean, lukewarm water. Extreme temperatures can warp the material, so be cautious!
  2. Apply the unscented antibacterial soap and gently scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Harsh products, rough scrubbing, and stiff bristles can damage the surface of the appliance, making them uncomfortable and more noticeable when worn.
  3. Thoroughly rinse with lukewarm water.
  4. Allow to dry completely before wearing.

If you require deeper cleaning, ask your orthodontist for recommendations on the best way to disinfect your appliance.

Fixed Retainers

We will admit that cleaning fixed retainers takes a bit more practice than removable retainers. There are a lot of nooks and crannies in and around fixed retainers that can be more difficult to clean, but if you stay on top of your daily routine, you will quickly become a pro!

  1. Floss! To floss with your fixed retainer, you must get the floss under the retainer and between the teeth. You need to get your gums!
  2. Use a water flosser! These devices use streams of water to flush out stubborn bacteria, plaque, and food particles that are likely to be missed by traditional brushing and flossing.
  3. Finally, give your retainer a gentle cleaning with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth.

Apply the appropriate steps to your routine twice a day for a happy and healthy mouth!

For more tips on retainer care, click here.

Where should removable retainers be when they’re not worn?

Remember when we said that removable retainers should be taken out for eating, drinking, maintenance and oral hygiene? Now, think of all the places you might do that, such as:

  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Festivals
  • Concerts
  • Aunt Carol’s house
  • Your best friend’s apartment
  • Motel
  • Sporting events
  • Motel
  • The cafeteria
  • The car on a road trip
  • An airplane that serves snacks or meals
  • An airport

And the list goes on! What we mean to say is there are a lot of places where your retainers can be misplaced, left behind, thrown away, stepped on, chewed up by animals, or covered in germs if not properly protected. 

The best place to put your retainer when it’s not being worn is in its case! That case shields it from physical harm and germs, whether it is in your suitcase, purse, pocket, or bathroom counter. The case also helps you keep track of your appliances’ whereabouts because it takes up more physical and visual space.

Damaged retainers are uncomfortable and sometimes unattractive to wear, decreasing the time you spend in them. Retainers can always be replaced or deep cleaned, but it only takes just one day for teeth to shift! For the best retention results, we strongly encourage you to place your retainers in their case.

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Hamer & Glassick can provide all your retainer needs!

At Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics, we are passionate about providing you with the best possible care and customer service before, during, and after active treatment.

We understand transitioning into the retention phase can be confusing and that it can be hard to find the motivation to create a routine after the excitement of finishing braces or clear aligners treatment. However, it is necessary to take wearing and caring for your retainer seriously.

Our team wants to make this next phase of orthodontic treatment as easy and stress-free as possible. Please contact us to talk to a knowledgeable staff member or book an appointment with our skilled orthodontists!

We look forward to helping you achieve your smile goals!