Your Orthodontic Treatment Is Over…Now What?
The day the braces come off is an amazing day for any orthodontic patient, but don’t get ahead of yourself, because now that you have the smile you’ve always wanted, you have to keep it. That means wearing your retainers as instructed by the orthodontist. The reason we need retention to keep our teeth in their post-braces position is that it takes time for our teeth, gums, and jaw bones to get used to this new arrangement. So don’t slack off on wearing them!
Retainers come in a few different varieties. Removable ones, whether wire and acrylic or clear plastic, have the obvious advantage that you can take them out, which makes it much easier to clean both the retainers and your teeth. However, that also means you might forget to put them back in — or, worse, lose them after taking them out to eat lunch!
Non-removable or bonded retainers are strips of wire cemented to the backs of the teeth to hold them in their post-braces position. These have the advantage of permanently ensuring that your teeth don’t shift back to their old positions, but they can make flossing between those teeth tricky. If you think you’re likely to forget to wear your retainers, bonded might be the perfect choice for you.
Keeping Retainers Clean
Retainers accumulate bacteria, plaque, and tartar while you wear them, just like teeth do, and that means they need regular cleaning, also just like teeth do. No one wants to wear a retainer that smells bad, tastes bad, is discolored, and is covered in gunk!
The cleaning process will vary a little depending on what type of retainer you have. If you have a removable retainer, rinse it in cool water and brush it at least once a day. If you have a bonded retainer, we know it can make flossing a little tricky, but it’s worth it. Tartar really likes to accumulate around a bonded retainer. Floss threaders or a water flosser can make this much easier.
Give Your Retainer the Occasional Deep Clean
Daily cleanings are important, but retainers need a more thorough cleaning every once in a while to stay in good condition. The hygienist can take care of that for a bonded retainer at your regular dental appointments, but you can clean a removable retainer at home, and it’s cheap and easy.
Either purchase special retainer-cleaning tablets or simply soak the retainer in a mixture of cool water and baking soda. Water and vinegar also work, or some hydrogen peroxide. Leave the retainer to soak for a few minutes, then rinse it and let it dry. However, make sure you never use hot water (which can warp the retainer) or harsh chemicals like bleach.
Storing a Retainer Between Uses
There’s a good chance you’ll only need to wear a removable retainer overnight, so what’s the best way to store it during the day? Keep in mind that harmful bacteria thrive in enclosed environments that are dark and damp, so it’s best to store a retainer somewhere dry and open to the air. (This applies to toothbrushes too.) There are some types that need to be soaked while not being worn, so check with us on the specific needs of your retainer.
Do Retainers Really Matter This Much?
The reason retention after braces is so crucial is that the supporting structures around our teeth aren’t immediately used to their new position when the braces come off. The jaw bone and periodontal ligament need time to finish adjusting. Patients who don’t bother to wear their retainers might end up needing braces again before long. Nobody wants that to happen.
Raineri and DiCosimo Orthodontics Can Help You Keep Your Perfect Post-Braces Smile
The orthodontist will help you determine which type of retainer will be best to suit your treatment needs and comfort. If you have any questions about retention or the types of retainers available, just give us a call at (315) 457-4900 or send us an email. You can learn more about our practice by checking our business page, and make sure to get directions to our Liverpool or our Baldwinsville location, depending on which is more convenient for you.