After months of treatment with braces or clear aligners, you’re finally ready to show off that beautiful new smile! You may think you’re done with orthodontics, but you still have an important step — wearing your retainers! Your new retainers will keep your teeth in place while your jaw sets and your teeth stop trying to move. You’ll need to wear them almost constantly during the first few months, and you’ll need to keep them clean. 

Freeman Orthodontics provides retainers as part of your orthodontic treatment. Your retainers are made to last for years, but only if you care for them properly. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey with retainers. 

Why Cleaning Your Retainers Is Important

You know how important it is to brush and floss your teeth. Good oral hygiene habits prevent nasty things like tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. It’s just as important to keep your retainers clean, or they can spread bacteria in your mouth and trap plaque, increasing your chances of tooth decay and infection. 

As with the rest of your mouth, bacteria and plaque build-up on your retainers. Without proper cleaning, your retainers retain that bacteria, and you put it back in your mouth every time you reinsert your retainers. Gross, right? 

Bacteria is normal in your mouth in certain quantities. When more is added, it can cause mouth sores and other illnesses. You can also get infections from a buildup of certain contaminants, such as Candida albicans, a type of yeast that accumulates on retainers. 

If you experience abnormal symptoms in your mouth while wearing retainers, contact us at Freeman Orthodontics. This can include severe redness, swelling, pain, or bleeding from your gums. Severe mouth sores can also indicate a problem. We will recommend your best course of action and whether you should see a dentist or a doctor right away.

What Are the Types of Retainers?

There are three main types of retainers. Two are removable, while the third is bonded to your teeth. 

  • Hawley Retainer — This is the traditional retainer most people picture when they hear “retainers.” A custom-molded acrylic mouthpiece holds wires that fit over your teeth to keep them in place. This retainer pops onto and off your teeth and can be removed for easy cleaning.
  • Clear Retainers — These are often called Vivera, Essix, or clear retainers. They look similar to clear aligners, but they’re meant to keep your teeth in place rather than moving them. They can be removed for easy cleaning.
  • Fixed Retainers — A wire is bonded permanently to the back of your teeth, so they don’t move. It usually can’t be seen, but tartar can build up easily around the retainer because it’s not removable. It is crucial to be extra vigilant to keep the area around the retainer clean and free of plaque. 

5 Tips for Cleaning Retainers

So how do you keep your retainers clean? There are several possible ways to do this, but you have to remember to rinse your retainers every time you remove or replace them. 

Here are five top tips for keeping your retainers clean. 

  • Rinse your retainers. Be sure to rinse your retainers each time you take them out and put them back in your mouth. You should brush your teeth before you replace your retainers. At the very least, rinse your mouth with water very well to try to remove as many food particles as possible. 
  • Soak your retainers. You should soak your retainers in a solution of warm water and retainer cleansing tablets, which are available at major retailers and pharmacies. Some denture tablets may contain abrasives and shouldn’t be used, particularly on clear retainers. They can make them look cloudy over time. Rinse your retainers thoroughly before you put them into your mouth.
  • Use a soft-bristled brush or cotton swab. If you have food particles or plaque trapped in the crevices of your retainers, use a cotton swab or a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove them. Don’t use toothpaste! Abrasive material in the toothpaste can cause microabrasions on your retainers that will turn them cloudy over time. 
  • Use safe cleaning alternatives. If cleaning tablets aren’t available, you can use white distilled vinegar, baking soda, or clear antibacterial soap diluted in lukewarm water to clean your retainers. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly before putting them in your mouth. 
  • Never use hot water. Don’t ever try to clean your retainers in very hot water or by putting them in the dishwasher. The extreme heat can warp or damage your retainers. Always use lukewarm water instead. 

Cleaning your retainers every day, and cleaning them properly, will allow them to last a long time. You should wear your retainers for years to come, and with proper maintenance, they will last that long.

Other Tips for Maintaining Your Retainers

While cleaning is important, there are other things to keep in mind when it comes to your retainers. You’ll want to keep them safe, as well, and you’ll want them to be effective. Here are a few more tips when it comes to wearing retainers. 

  • Remove your retainers to eat or drink anything but clear water. 
  • Store your retainers in a case when they aren’t in your mouth. 
  • Wear your retainers at least 22 hours a day for the first few months so they can be fully effective. 
  • Don’t drink coffee, tea, colored (flavored) water, or fruit juice with your retainers in your mouth, as these beverages will stain your retainers, particularly clear retainers. 
  • Don’t wrap your retainers in a napkin when removing them. It’s too easy to throw them out accidentally. If possible, carry a storage container with you when you go out.
  • Don’t forget to put your retainers back in your mouth after eating or drinking. Leaving them out too long regularly can extend your treatment time.
  • Don’t use a sharp object to scrape debris from your clear aligners or retainers, as it can damage the appliance. 
  • Don’t hesitate to contact your dentist or orthodontist if you experience any pain, swelling, discomfort, or illness. Bad oral hygiene can lead to infection or illness that will need to be treated immediately. 
  • Call right away if you lose or damage your retainers. Going without your retainers could allow your teeth to move out of place. 

Getting Retainers in San Jose, CA

Retainers are the important final step in your orthodontic treatment. They will help you keep that smile you’ve worked so hard to achieve. You’ll wear your retainers almost constantly at first, but over time, that time can be reduced. Taking good care of your retainers will ensure they last for years.  Our San Jose, CA, patients can contact us with any questions or concerns about their retainers. If you’re in the area and are ready for treatment with braces or clear aligners, request a free consult to get started today!

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