6 min read

Tips on Taking Care of Your Retainer

At Jungle Roots, we pride ourselves on achieving optimal results with all of our patients. Once your freshly aligned teeth are finished here, it’s up to you to keep them in their best condition and contact us if you need help. Aside from continuing the good dental hygiene habits we taught you, one item in particular will need regular upkeep as it’s essential to keeping your newly straightened pearly whites in line.

This item - the key to preventing your teeth from drifting out of alignment - is your new retainer! Let’s go over what you’ll need to know in order to maintain it properly.

What’s involved with taking care of your retainer?

The retainer you’ll receive is integral to preserving the results you’ve achieved. Depending upon your individual needs, you’ll receive either a fixed or removable retainer.

Removable retainers

Removable retainers are molded into the correct shape for your mouth either using acrylic and wire or clear invisible material. They can be slid into and out of position when removal is necessary. They are designed to fit snugly against either your upper or lower front teeth to maintain proper alignment. Since they’re removable, they are easier to keep clean - but also easier to lose or damage. See tips below on ways to minimize those risks.

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers usually comprise a thin wire affixed permanently across the back of the top or bottom teeth, held in place with a special orthodontic adhesive. These are typically used with patients at a higher risk of having their teeth drift out of place. They also require a bit more dexterity to keep clean.

For thorough cleaning, it’s important to floss daily between the teeth onto which your fixed retainer is attached. This is done most efficiently using floss threaders, which can be found in most department store pharmacies or online. If you’ve had braces on for a while, you’ve probably flossed with these before. If you have trouble getting the hang of it, we are happy to walk you through a quick and easy demonstration on how to floss with your new fixed retainer.

Tips on Maintaining Your Retainer:

Regardless of the type of retainer you end up with, we’ve gathered some helpful ways to keep them clean and in great shape. Just follow the guidelines below and don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have questions!

Brush your retainer whenever you brush your teeth.

Keep removable retainers clean by brushing them as regularly as you brush your teeth. If you have a fixed retainer, floss the teeth behind it, too. Be sure to use cool water when brushing your removable retainer (never hot or warm), as well as a gentle cleansing solution or non-whitening toothpaste, and a soft bristle toothbrush. You may wish to use a soft cotton swab to clean the deeper grooves in some retainers as well. If you aren’t sure which type of cleansing solution or toothpaste to use on your retainer to prevent damage or corrosion, give us a call or ask at your next appointment.

Brushing your retainer is incredibly important because if your retainer goes too long without being cleaned, bacteria may accumulate and lead to illness. Let us know immediately if you experience any swelling or redness in your gums or anywhere in your mouth.

Be sure to rinse your retainer thoroughly when finished cleaning it, then dry and store your retainer in its case.

Keep regular dental and orthodontic appointments.

Most importantly, continue to keep your dental and orthodontic appointments as scheduled. These appointments can help ensure your teeth stay cavity-free and get rid of any built-up plaque and tartar. They will also help keep your teeth in line after braces and check the condition of your retainer.

Keep your retainer case with you at all times.

This is a very important rule to follow, as it can spare the need to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement retainer unnecessarily.

The rule to remember is: if you’re wearing your retainer, be sure to bring its case along with you. Keep it in a sturdy side compartment in your backpack or purse where nothing can press into it, wear it in a securely zippered pouch on a lanyard, or find another way to safely carry it with you. This way, if you must remove your retainer while you’re out and about, you’ll reduce your risk of accidentally throwing it away.

Like many folks do on their lunch breaks, you may occasionally wrap your retainer in a napkin or paper towel while you eat. While this is perfectly fine to do temporarily, if you forget it’s wrapped up in there, you could accidentally toss your retainer out with the rest of your lunch tray when finished.

Your retainer can also be damaged if you drop it, step on it, misplace it, etc. Your best bet is to make a habit of always placing it directly into its case, which is more eye-catching and protective.

Clean your case, too.

Your retainer case can accumulate bacteria as well, so it must be cleaned just like your retainer. Once every day or two, give it a nice gentle wash with soap and water and dry it out thoroughly.

Keep your retainer away from heat and pets.

Since retainers are made of a moldable material, exposing them to heat may cause unintentional warping of their original shape or other damage. They may even melt. To prevent these problems, keep them away from heat sources and always remove them before sipping hot beverages or eating hot foods.

Also, be sure to never leave them in your car on a hot day and keep them away from boiling water, microwaves, dishwashers (nope, they aren’t dishwasher-safe), or washers and dryers. Be careful not to accidentally wash your pants, jacket, or backpack with your retainer still in it!

Additionally, retainers are extremely attractive to pets, so be sure to keep yours out of Fido’s reach! Always store it in its case up high. The medicine cabinet or a cool shelf in the bathroom closet are great places to store your retainer when it’s not in your mouth.

Replace your retainer regularly.

While they may seem eternally durable, retainers should be replaced if they start fitting differently or there is noticeable wear and tear. If you want to keep your best smile, be sure to give us a call as soon as you see a change in your retainer or the way it fits.

Carry water with you.

Although it’s no substitute for brushing with a toothbrush, sipping water throughout the day can swish bacteria away from your teeth and out from under your retainer. Keep some water with you all day.

Minimize sugary or acidic beverages.

As we’ve mentioned before, water is your most dental-friendly beverage. The same is true if you wear a retainer. Other types of drinks may stain your teeth if held against them by the retainer for long periods of time, and of course, there’s an increased risk of tooth decay. If you must drink a sugary or acidic beverage, be sure to follow it up with a few sips of water to rinse off your teeth and retainer.

Stranded away from home with no toothpaste?

You may find that using some of the following can clean your retainer if you’re ever stranded away from home or you run out of the proper cleaning solution unexpectedly -- but please do try to call us first to make sure whatever you’re using won’t destroy your retainer. Some folks have successfully used variations of:

  • Baking soda mixed with water, made into a light paste: Use like toothpaste.
  • White vinegar, mixed half and half with cool water: Soak for 20 minutes.
  • Castile soap mixed with cool water: Dip retainer into the solution and brush with a toothbrush.
  • Mouthwash: Dip retainer into mouthwash and brush like you’re using toothpaste.
  • Gently dry your retainer before placing it in the retainer case to avoid hard water stains.

We hope this guide will be helpful to you in keeping your retainer in good condition over time. If anything happens to your retainer, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us right away. We are happy to help and look forward to chatting with you soon!

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

Call Us - (480) 759-1119

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