There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting your braces off! At Ollins Orthodontics, we’ve celebrated hundreds of patients as they’ve transitioned from braces to straight and beautiful smiles. But there is one detail that’s really important to remember: in order to maintain that gorgeous grin you need to wear your retainer.
Wearing a retainer as recommended by Dr. Bruce or Dr. Gabriel Ollins is the best way to preserve your teeth alignment. Plus, learning how to care for and clean that retainer will make it last for years and years to come. It’s simple to learn, and as you gradually add it to your oral hygiene habits, you’ll see just how easy it is.
What’s the Big Deal About Retainers?
Before we get into the details about keeping a retainer clean, it’s good to remind ourselves why retainers are so important in the first place. Though it feels like your orthodontic journey is finished as soon as the braces come off, that isn’t true. Regularly wearing your retainer is the last and longest step of your treatment, and is as important as any other stage. A retainer is what will ensure that your teeth stay straight, maintaining better oral and dental health for many years.
Straight teeth are important, not only for appearance reasons. Crooked teeth are more likely to trap food particles and grow bacteria that turn into plaque and tartar, which erode the enamel on your teeth that cause cavities and other problems. Misaligned bites, called malocclusions, can lead to pain, TMJ, and other serious jaw issues. All of these potential problems are mitigated when teeth are aligned and maintained by wearing your retainer.
Learning How to Keep Retainers Clean
Now that we understand the importance of wearing a retainer, let’s think about why it’s so important to keep them clean. Because the mouth is the place where we chew and swallow our food and drink, it is also one of the places where bacteria have access to our bodies. If you don’t clean your retainer, you allow bacteria to remain on it and then reintroduce it back into your mouth the next time you put your retainer in. Not only is this unsanitary, but it is adds layers of germs that will continue to grow.
As we said before, it is really easy to keep your retainer clean, so there’s no excuse to keep adding a dirty, grimy retainer back into your mouth, giving yourself a higher risk of growing plaque or even infection-causing bacteria. Keep reading to learn more about how to clean the specific type of retainer that you have!
An Essix retainer looks like and works like an Invisalign retainer. It’s made out of a sturdy, clear plastic that is slightly flexible to fit onto your teeth. It will hold your bite in place as you wear it, and is discreet and barely visible to others. For these reasons, it’s a popular option for orthodontists and their patients!
The first step to cleaning an Essix retainer is to rinse it well with lukewarm water as soon as you take it out. Never use hot water on your Essix retainer as it can sometimes damage and warp the plastic. Once rinsed, you’ll want to give your retainer a little scrub. We recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush that is reserved only for your retainer. That way you don’t accidentally use any residual toothpaste which often contain tiny abrasive properties that can damage a retainer.
Grab your reserved toothbrush and then choose a cleaner that is easiest for you. We recommend an alcohol-free mouthwash or a plain hand soap. These are great options because they are nonabrasive, but are antibacterial and can kill germs that are trying to grow on the retainer. Scrub out the retainer well, being sure to reach into the crevices. Then rinse well with lukewarm water to get out any residue.
Now your Essix retainer is clean and ready for the next use! One extra tip if you notice that despite your best efforts your retainer is looking dingey or has white buildup in it–you can soak your retainer to help get it extra clean. We recommend something like a denture soak such as Polident. There are many other soaks that are made just for retainers, so choose one that you like. After soaking according to the instructions, you can give the retainer one more quick scrub to remove any remaining buildup.
A Hawley retainer is the classic retainer style and shape, made out of acrylic that fits perfectly into the roof of your mouth or bottom of your mouth and attaches onto the teeth with metal wiring. These retainers are still commonly recommended by orthodontists depending on the patient’s need.
Cleaning a Hawley retainer is similar to cleaning an Essix retainer, inclufing rinsing, scrubbing, and rinsing again. Remember to use that reserved toothbrush so as not to introduce toothpaste to the retainer, and instead use hand soap or alcohol-free mouthwash. You still need to be cautious about using lukewarm water only. Even though the acrylic looks tough, it can still be damaged, so extra care is needed.
You can also soak a Hawley retainer in a denture soak as necessary to remove any excess buildup!
A fixed retainer is a little different from the other retainers in terms of function and care. Just like it sounds, a fixed retainer is fixed into the mouth permanently using bonding and metal wire. This retainer is convenient and discreet as it is placed behind the teeth and is invisible to other people.
As always, both doctors Ollins will recommend that you brush your teeth twice daily, and floss daily. When brushing your teeth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub around the fixed retainer, approaching it from all angles to help remove food particles and plaque that can get trapped around it. When flossing, use a threader to pull the floss underneath the metal bar, then floss and normal, reaching for all the nooks and crannies.
Let Ollins Orthodontics Be Your Oral Health Partner!
Regardless of where you are in your orthodontic treatment, or which kind of retainer you are using, the team at Ollins Orthodontics is eager to help set you up for success! Wearing and caring for your retainer takes a little practice, but with the support of our office professionals and Dr. Bruce and Dr. Gabriel Ollins, you’ll be well on your way to a sparkling smile in no time. Get in touch with us and set up an appointment at our Nutley office!