Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is Important

It’s finally time to get your braces off and the anticipation is mounting. What will you look like with a new and improved smile? How will you feel? Another big question you should be asking is how you can preserve your amazing orthodontic results–and the answer is with your retainer!

Dr. Tahbaz and Dr. Rezapour at Luv Braces have seen many children, teens, and adults have amazing success with their orthodontic treatment. But the results only last if you use your retainer as instructed and take great care of it. Let’s dig in a little deeper to learn how to care for your retainer to help it last for years to come!

Why Are Retainers Necessary?

Retainers are the final stage of your orthodontic treatment, and they are an important one. By wearing your retainer, you will help keep your teeth aligned properly without braces. Teeth alignment isn’t only about looks, either. Orthodontics improves jaw alignment, which is essential to avoid jaw issues like malocclusions or a misaligned bite, TMJ pain, and more. 

Since you’ve invested so much effort into your straight smile already, why not continue by wearing your retainer and keeping it in tip-top shape? Let’s learn more!

Why Do You Need to Keep Retainers Clean?

Retainers are meant to repeatedly go into your mouth, which means they are subject to growing the bacteria that live there. Just like you need to keep your teeth clean and free from plaque and debris, the same is true for your retainer! 

The good news is that learning how to care for your retainer is easy. Just like with any new habit, it can require a small learning curve, but with a bit of practice, your retainer and your teeth should be in great shape for years to come. 

Different Types of Retainers and How to Clean Them

Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is made of metal wiring that is secured onto your teeth to prevent your teeth from shifting once your braces are removed. A fixed retainer can be super convenient because it doesn’t require any effort to remember to take it out or put it back in, and it doesn’t need special cleaning. Usually, fixed retainers are placed on the inside of the teeth so they are also invisible to others!

Cleaning a fixed retainer means doing a thorough job of brushing and flossing, similar to how you cared for your braces. Dr. Tahbaz and Dr. Rezapour recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush twice daily to gently scrub around and behind the wire, being sure to approach it from all angles. This will remove most of the food particles and plaque that get stuck there. Just finish off with your daily floss using the floss threader to go underneath the fixed retainer and floss as usual. 

Fixed retainers and meant to stay in your mouth permanently, so treat them with care and avoid biting hard foods that might break or weaken them. If you do end up having a broken retainer, just set up an appointment at Luv Braces and our team can sort it out quickly!

Hawley Retainers

Orthodontists have used Hawley retainers for years to maintain newly straightened teeth and for good reason. These retainers are made out of acrylic and metal wires that are molded to fit the shape of your mouth and teeth and fit into the roof or bottom of your mouth. They have bumpy ridges that fit the bumpy roof of your mouth, giving it a rough texture that needs to be cleaned daily. 

Cleaning your Hawley retainer is easy. Dr. Tahbaz and Dr. Rezapour recommend cleaning it right when you are taking it out and putting it away. Start by giving it a good rinse under lukewarm water (never hot water because that can distort the retainer). 

Once you’ve rinsed it well, grab a soft-bristled toothbrush that you’ve set aside just for your retainer. We recommend using an alcohol-free mouthwash, or even a gentle hand soap to gently scrub your retainer all over, top and bottom. Remember, never use toothpaste on your retainer since they contain tiny abrasive properties that can scratch your retainer. 

Just rinse well with lukewarm water and store it until you’re ready to wear it again!

Essix Retainers 

An Essix retainer looks and functions much like an Invisalign retainer. It’s made out of a clear plastic tray that is molded to perfectly fit your newly-straight teeth! Cleaning these retainers is similar to the Hawley retainer. Rinsing in lukewarm water, scrubbing with a clean toothbrush, and using non-harsh substances to clean are all the same. Because of the retainer’s deep grooves, you might need to scrub well to get it clean, but don’t go too crazy. These retainers are made out of fairly tough plastic but they can be warped if not treated with care.

If you find that there is buildup forming in your Essix or Hawley retainer, one option is to soak your retainer in a denture cleaner like Polident, or other cleaners made specifically for retainers. This can help loosen up the buildup that you then scrub off with the toothbrush afterward.

Why Cleaning and Caring for a Retainer is ImportantLuv Braces Can Help Keep You on Track!

Now that you know all about the importance of wearing and caring for your retainer, you will be set up for long-term retainer success! And the even better news is that you’ll never be alone to deal with any challenges or issues. Luv Braces is ready to help answer any questions or support you as you care for your teeth and retainers for the long haul. Just give us a call at our Austin or Bee Cave locations to set up an appointment!