Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

Dr. Glass February 20, 2023

At Glass Orthodontics, we know that getting your braces off or finishing your last set of clear aligners is the day you have been waiting for since your first appointment! You’ve sacrificed a lot for this day to come. You gave up some of your favorite foods, suffered through some discomfort, and maybe even felt self-conscious about your smile before or during treatment. But it was all worth it! The smile looks exactly how you’ve always dreamed!

Now that you have finished active treatment, it is time to transition into the retention phase! This phase is when we work to maintain your alignment! You will need to wear, clean, and protect a retainer for a successful retention phase. 

What does a retainer do?

The pressure that braces and clear aligners apply to your teeth softens the ligaments and bones in the mouth to allow for teeth movement. When Dr. Glass concludes your active treatment, that pressure must be relieved to prevent further tooth progression. Unfortunately, the bones and ligaments are still soft and pliable, and the teeth, which usually don’t understand why they’ve moved, will try to return to their original positions. This backward shift is known as regression!

The mouth needs a little more time to stabilize and fill the spaces where the teeth used to be. That’s why your retainer is essential to maintaining your new smile! As the name suggests, these orthodontic appliances retain the teeth in their new homes. It is crucial to wear your retainer as prescribed by your orthodontist. Neglecting or forgetting to wear your retainer often enough could prompt a restart of active treatment!

What are the different types of retainers?

There are two kinds of retainers, removable and fixed. Both styles have pros and cons, and Dr. Glass will recommend the one he thinks is best when the time is right.

Removable retainers come in two different styles: the Hawley, which has a visible wire on the outside of the teeth, and the Essix, which looks almost identical to a clear aligner. These can and should be removed by the patient for eating, drinking, cleaning, and performing oral hygiene.

Fixed retainers are attached to the patient’s teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontic professional. These sit behind the teeth for a discreet look.

Why should retainers be cleaned?

Did you know that braces, clear aligners, and retainers can harbor or provide secret hiding spots for the same bacteria and plaque as the mouth? Those germs cause bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and other complications. That’s why we have always stressed the importance of maintaining a consistent routine with good habits to keep the mouth clean and healthy! Completing active treatment does not mean it is time to slack on that regimen.

Retainers should be cleaned twice a day when you brush and floss. If you take your removable retainer out to brush and floss your teeth and put it back in without cleaning it, the germs on your retainer will spread to your freshly cleaned mouth! If you avoid cleaning your fixed retainer, you’re likely to miss some bacteria and plaque that could damage your smile over time.

A clean retainer increases your likelihood of a successful retention phase because you are more inclined to wear a fresh-smelling and fresh-tasting removable retainer. You are also protecting your smile from issues that could cause long-term effects to your smile no matter the retainer type if you keep it clean!

The best way to clean your orthodontic appliance depends on the kind you have and the material it is made of, so be sure to ask Dr. Glass for instructions!

Where should removable retainers go when they’re not being worn?

Removable retainers are small, thin, and sometimes transparent for comfort and a discreet aesthetic. These characteristics also make them easy to lose and break!

Remember when we said that Hawley and Essix retainers should be removed to eat, drink, clean, and perform oral hygiene? Think of all the locations that could take place! Restaurants, movie theaters, festivals, concerts, sporting events, hotels, motels, public parks, amusement parks, museums, the mall, friends’ or family’s houses, and so many more! That’s a lot of places for your retainer to become lost, stepped on, thrown away, left behind accidentally, chewed up by animals, broken, or get dirty with visible or microscopic germs.

Damaged retainers can be uncomfortable or unattractive, and lost retainers can’t be worn! The best way to keep your retainers safe is to put them in their protective case! This case was designed to guard your appliances against physical danger and germs. Because it takes up more visible and physical real estate, it also helps you know where your retainer is at all times. 

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

We are so Glass you have trusted us with your orthodontic journey, and we can’t wait to help you sustain the outcome! 

Dr. Glass is passionate about sharing his knowledge with the next generation of orthodontists, but his love of teaching doesn’t stop in the classroom! He and his entire team take pride in providing patients with quality care and information.  

If you have any questions about retention, retainers, or their care, please contact one of our conveniently located offices! Our kind and welcoming staff would be happy to answer any questions or help you book an appointment with Dr. Glass.

We cannot wait to talk to orthodontics with you! See you soon!