How to care for your retainer

So your child’s braces are coming off and it is time to enjoy their brilliant new smile, but this isn’t the end of the orthodontic journey! To help ensure their gorgeous smile stays straight for years to come, your orthodontist will recommend that they wear a retainer to encourage their teeth and jaws to maintain their new position. While they may be able to gradually reduce how often they need to wear it over time, helping them learn to properly care for their retainer will ensure they are able to wear it at regular intervals for years to come.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is an orthodontic device that is designed to help teeth ‘retain’ their new position. Teeth move throughout our life and without a retainer, the teeth will shift again.

What types of retainers are there?

There are various types of retainers that may be suggested for your teen when they are ready to move on from braces. Retainers can be fixed onto the teeth or be removable.

A permanent or fixed retainer is a wire that is glued to the inside of the teeth to help prevent the teeth from shifting over time. They are similar to lingual braces in their appearance.

Removable retainers come in two main types, plates or clear retainers. These need to be taken out for eating, cleaning and sport. A plate retainer is also commonly known as a wire retainer. It consists of a moulded acrylic base that is custom-fitted to the roof of the mouth. This type of retainer has been around for decades and continues to be a reliable option after braces.

Clear retainers are essentially a very thin clear mouthguard. They are made from a clear plastic that is created from a mould of the teeth once braces are removed. You shouldn’t feel any discomfort or pressure from the retainer if worn correctly and consistently.

How to clean your retainer:

As a retainer sits within the mouth, and is often put back in after eating and overnight, the same food and plaque that builds up on your teeth will also build up on your retainer. That is why it is essential that retainers are cleaned regularly to keep them hygienic.

Your orthodontist will advise on the best care techniques for your child’s new retainer, however there are a few basic tips that can be quite easy to follow regardless of the retainer type.

Give your teeth a good clean or at least a thorough rinse after eating and prior to placing the retainer back into your mouth.  Also give your retainer a proper clean at least once a day. It might seem like the obvious choice, but avoid cleaning the retainer with toothpaste as this may be too abrasive. Instead a tiny bit of hand soap on a brush will work perfectly well. You should also avoid hot water or high temperatures as this may warp the plastic materials.

Soaking the retainer in an anti-bacterial denture solution at least weekly can help maintain its freshness and kill bacteria.

Where to keep your retainer

When your child is not wearing their retainer, it should be kept in its plastic case to prevent it from breaking or becoming lost. Rinse the retainer before placing it in its case to help reduce the amount of bacteria being transferred back into the mouth.

The retainer should never put it in a pocket, bag or wrapped in a napkin or tissue when eating, as they’re far more likely to be lost, broken or thrown away – and you don’t want to be heading into the orthodontist every other week to purchase a new retainer!

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