Getting retainers is often the happiest time for an orthodontic patient. After years of braces, your teeth will soon be “free! ” But it isn’t entirely carefree. You need to wear your retainers exactly as your orthodontist tells you or your teeth could shift back to the way they were before braces. And since retainers cost several hundred dollars to replace, you want to keep them clean, odor-free, and safe from breakage!
Why Do I Need to Wear Retainers?
After your braces come off, the periodontal ligaments that hold the teeth in place are still loose from the pressure of your braces. Generally, it takes anywhere from 3 to 9 months for the periodontal ligaments to tighten up and “remember” the new positions of your straightened teeth. This is why it’s so important that you wear your retainer exactly the way that your orthodontist recommends. You just spent years in dentures — this final step is very important for keeping your smile as beautiful as it was the day your braces came off!
Most orthodontists tell their patients to wear their retainers 24/7 for the first few months. Gradually you can switch to wearing the retainers only at night. And after a year or more, you might be able to “get away with” sporting them a few nights per week. But if you would like your teeth to stay in their new positions, you can’t totally stop wearing your retainer. You will have to wear it at least several nights each week for the rest of your life to keep your teeth in their proper positions. Teeth are dynamic and respond to the pressures of daily living (the position of your tongue, the way you bite and chew, etc). Over time those pressures will move the teeth. Wearing your retainers helps to ensure that the teeth remain “retained” where they were on the day that your braces came off.
How to Clean Retainers
One of the biggest challenges to wearing retainers (and even Invisalign-type aligner trays) is maintaining the retainers and aligners clean. Bacteria build up on the retainers and aligners the same manner they build up on teeth. If you don’t maintain your aligners tidy, very quickly you will notice that they smell bad and have an ugly layer of white gunky film. Should you would like ‘t clean your retainers or aligners properly, the movie will harden and become almost impossible to remove. This is true for all types of retainers (plastic and wire Hawley retainers, clear Essix retainers, aligner trays, snoring and bruxism devices, etc).
How can you keep your retainers clean and odor free? There are several ways.
Always rinse your retainers in warm water after taking them out of your mouth. Before putting your retainer into a retainer case, give it a quick rinse. This will wash off some of the surface bacteria. Do not use an anti-bacterial hand wipe on your retainer. The chemicals in antibacterial hand wipes may be toxic if they are put into your mouth!
The easiest method for cleaning retainers is the good old-fashioned toothbrush. If you have a plastic and cable Hawley retainer, you can brush it with toothpaste on a soft toothbrush. However, this method is not recommended to get Invisalign-type clear aligner trays or clear Essix retainers (which look like aligner trays). The toothpaste can scratch the clear plastic and over time, your retainers will not be “invisible” anymore. See: Dentist Serving Calgary, Marlborough, Penbrooke Meadows, Pineridge & Rundle | Go Dental
Some people recommend soaking retainers in a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide diluted with water, or even an alcohol-based mouthwash. This helps to kill germs but doesn’t address the white gunky build-up. In addition, these harsh chemicals can damage the surface of the plastic over time, turning it yellow.
Some people today use denture cleaning tablets to wash their retainers or even aligners. This will seem to work at first, but over time the harsh substances in the denture tablets will turn your retainer yellow. This is because the denture pills are strongly formulated to clean false teeth, not retainers.
This is the reason why the companies which make retainers have come out with special cleaning products. These products are formulated to kill germs and remove the white buildup without harming the plastic from the retainers. Two products work extremely well for this purpose: SonicBrite and Retainer Brite. Both products can be found on the DentaKit website.
Keeping Your Retainers Safe
“I lost my retainer! ” These are dreadful words that you will hopefully never say. It may take 2 to 3 weeks to make a new retainer, and most orthodontists charge anywhere from $100 to $250 or more to make a new set of retainers. This is due to the fact that most retainers are made by outside labs, so the orthodontist must send the mold of your mouth to the lab to have a new pair of custom retainers fabricated. Obviously, you want to maintain your retainers safe and accounted for at all times. The best way to do this is with a fantastic retainer case. Your orthodontist will probably give you a retainer case when you get your retainers. But if you would like more than one case, or if you want an instance of a specific color or size, the DentaKit web store carries a wide selection of all sorts of retainer cases, both hard and soft.
The most common way that retainers are lost is by wrapping them in napkins. You can’t see the retainer inside the napkin, you forget about it, and soon the napkin gets tossed in the garbage. Unless you would like to spend hours digging through the trash, it’s better to put your retainer into a proper situation – never use a napkin!
Should you get a hard case or a soft case? That depends on where you keep your retainer. If you are not going to maintain your retainer at a place where it will potentially get “smashed,” then you can opt for a soft case. But if you tend to place your retainer in your pocket, or a backpack where it may get buried under heavy books, it’s best to receive a hard case to protect your retainer from breakage. Some retainer cases include a hole or a loop for attaching it to a keychain clip or a lanyard, which keeps them easily within reach. Boys and men might want to get a retainer case in a dark color, but keep in mind that bright colors are easier to find at the bottom of a backpack, briefcase, or purse.