Here at Icon Orthodontics, we’re proud to help your smile shine! Our expert team has helped patients of all ages achieve straighter teeth and improved oral health, but even the best results won’t last forever without a little help. That’s where retainers come in! Regular use of a retainer is an essential part of every treatment plan, but many people underestimate the significance of this appliance. Whether you’re a current patient of Dr. Sarpotdar and Dr. Sun or simply considering orthodontics, it’s important to understand what retainers do and how to take care of them! Keep reading to learn more.
How often does your retainer need to be cleaned?
Your retainer is in your mouth often. That means it’s constantly exposed to all the bacteria, plaque, and food debris hanging around in there! Dr. Sarpotdar and Dr. Sun recommend cleaning your retainers whenever you brush your teeth using soap or denture cleaner (toothpaste can make them cloudy over time). Of course, life happens and there will be days you forget. This isn’t a big deal as long as it’s only an occasional thing, but you should be able to recognize when your retainer is overdue for a cleaning! These signs include a bad taste or smell, a cloudy appearance, or white spots.
How should a retainer be cleaned?
Before you get into a cleaning routine for your retainer, it’s important to know what kind you have. There are three main types of retainers, which we’ll outline below.
A fixed retainer is composed of a thin wire that is positioned across the interior surface of the lower or upper front teeth and bonded into place with glue. Fixed retainers are incredibly effective at keeping the 6 lower front teeth in place, but we always recommend using these in conjunction with a removable retainer for best results.
Good oral hygiene is always important, but you’ll need to pay special attention to brushing and flossing around a fixed retainer. Angle your toothbrush properly to guarantee you’re cleaning the surface of every tooth. Pay special attention to the area behind your fixed retainer. Brush thoroughly but gently to ensure the metal wire isn’t damaged.
Flossing with a fixed retainer can take some practice. Using dental tools like Waterpiks, floss threaders, or orthodontic dental floss can help clean the hard-to-reach areas between the wire and the teeth. Avoid or moderate certain foods that can damage a fixed retainer, including crunchy or sticky snacks, and keep up with regular dental visits to keep plaque and cavities under control. Our doctors will also be happy to provide you with advice or give you a demonstration if needed.
Hawley retainers are probably one of the most recognizable orthodontic appliances we have outside of braces. They’re held in place by a wire that wraps around the teeth, which is then combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of the mouth. Although many orthodontists have been moving away from Hawley retainers in recent years, it can still be very useful for some patients.
If you’re given a Hawley retainer, you’ll need to clean it daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and soap (or non-abrasive toothpaste to avoid scratches/cloudiness). This will help remove plaque and bacteria from the appliance. For a deeper clean, you can soak the retainer in denture cleaner for a short period of time. Keep your retainer away from extreme temperatures! Washing it in very hot water or leaving it in a hot car can warp the material and affect how the retainer fits in your mouth.
Essix retainers are our most popular type of retainer and Drs. Sun and Sarpo’s retainer of choice! They’re made from a transparent plastic material and look similar to the trays that we use with the Invisalign clear aligner system. Your retainer is molded to the unique shape of your mouth and can last for quite a long time with the proper care. Fortunately, this is a very simple process!
Brush and floss your teeth before you put your retainer in. When you take it out, be sure to clean it right away so saliva can’t dry on the trays. You can do this by brushing your Essix retainer with lukewarm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush. If it needs a deeper clean, you can mix mild dish soap with the water and scrub gently using a toothbrush or denture brush. If grooves are in your aligners, a cotton swab will help clean those areas more thoroughly.
Essix retainers can also be soaked in a denture solution like Efferdent or Polident. There are cleaning solutions designed specifically for use with clear retainers, as well. We can recommend a solution for you to use with your retainer if you’re interested in this option.
Any removable retainer is easy to misplace or lose! Any time you aren’t using your appliance put it in the case and keep it in a safe place. As we say, “If it’s not in your FACE, it’s in your CASE!”
Keep your smile looking its best with care from Icon Orthodontics
Most experts now agree that wearing some type of retainer indefinitely is the best way to keep straight teeth in place long-term. This recommendation can seem overwhelming at first, but don’t worry too much! Most retainer wear is part-time, and these appliances will become just another part of your daily routine in no time. To learn more about how retainers work or schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Sarpotdar or Dr. Sun, get in touch with our Glendale or Surprise office today!