Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is Important

You might’ve waited months or years to get your braces off — or finish your clear aligner treatment — and now it’s finally happening! We are so excited and thrilled for you at Backus Orthodontics! Your smile looks amazing, and we’re honored to have been a part of that journey with you!

Now that you are through with active treatment, it is time to enter the retention phase! Retention is the process of holding your alignment in its place once active treatment ends. To do this, we will give you a retainer. 

What is a retainer & why do I need it?

A retainer is an orthodontic appliance that holds the teeth in their new positions. When we take your braces off, it’s because your teeth are perfect where they are, and we don’t want any pressure applied that could shift your teeth more. Unfortunately, your mouth needs a little more time to stabilize around the teeth. As the name suggests, your retainer retains the teeth and prevents them from moving back to their original positions. This backward movement is known as regression. 

Retainers can be fixed or removable. Fixed retainers are bonded to the teeth and can only be removed by an oral healthcare professional. Dr. Backus typically recommends having removable essix retainers in addition to  fixed (bonded) retainers. Wearing the essix retainers at night and while having the fixed retainers holds your teeth and bite in the correct position. 

To maintain your alignment, be sure to wear your retainer as prescribed! We know it can be hard to feel motivated about and get into the habit of wearing your removable retainer, especially with all the anticipation of your braces being taken off. However, neglecting or forgetting to wear your retainer could result in teeth shifting. If they move enough, you might have to restart active treatment.

How do I take care of my retainer?

You will be wearing your retainer a lot! In fact, because teeth could shift at any time, there is unlikely to be a time when you do not need your retainer. The good news is that retainers are built to last if taken care of. The even better news is that they’re super easy to upkeep!

How you clean your retainer depends on which retainer you have, but each routine only takes a few minutes. Let’s check it out.

Removable Retainers

You will need lukewarm water, unscented, antibacterial soap, and a soft-bristled toothbrush different from the one used to brush your teeth. Once you remove the retainers from your mouth, you need to do the following:

  1. Run them under the lukewarm water. It is essential that the water be lukewarm, as extreme temperatures can warp the material. 
  2. Gently brush with the soap and the soft toothbrush. Scrubbing too hard can damage the surface of the retainer, so be careful!
  3. Rinse thoroughly to remove any residue left behind by the cleaning solution. 
  4. Allow the retainers to dry completely before wear.

That’s all you have to do to keep your removable retainers looking, smelling, and tasting their best.

Fixed Retainers

These retainers might be a little more tricky to clean, but with enough practice, it will be second nature!

To floss with your fixed retainer, you will need to slip the floss between the teeth to reach the gums under the appliance. If you have difficulty getting the floss through, floss threaders are an excellent item to try! We also recommend investing in a water flosser if you haven’t already. These devices use jets of water to rid the mouth of stubborn plaque and food particles that might be left behind after traditional floss and brushing. They are perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach places and keeping a fixed orthodontic appliance spotless. Lastly, give your retainer a gentle scrub with the toothbrush when you brush your teeth. 

That’s it! It might be a little frustrating at first to clean a fixed retainer, but once you form a routine, it will seem like nothing!

It is crucial to keep your retainer clean. Just like your mouth, your retainer can develop the same harmful bacteria and plaque that causes tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and even tooth loss, among other things. Unclean removable retainers also smell and taste unpleasant, which is not encouraging when you need to wear them for hours a day. Taking a few minutes a day to clean your appliance increases the likelihood of you having a happy, healthy smile for years to come!

Why Cleaning and Caring For a Retainer is ImportantWhat do I do when I am not wearing it?

Removable retainers are small and easy to damage or lose. Plenty are lost or accidentally left in public places, end up in trash cans, or are found in a beloved pet’s mouth, chewed beyond repair every year. Some get stepped on or fall behind furniture that never moves. While retainers can always be replaced, it is best to keep track of and protect your appliances for the best retention results.

The most effective and easiest way to keep them safe is to put them in their protective case! The case safeguards them from physical damage and, because it takes up more space, helps you know where they are at all times. 

Have more retainer questions? Come see us at Backus Orthodontics!

Retainers are a necessary part of the orthodontic journey. For them to safely and effectively do their jobs, they need to be clean and in good condition.

At Backus Orthodontics, we are passionate about your orthodontic needs and want to do everything we can to ensure you have a successful and comfortable treatment. If you have any questions about retainers or would like to make an appointment, please get in touch with us! We look forward to talking with you soon!