You may know that braces are used to help straighten teeth & correct jaw alignment. But that movement may not always be permanent without a retainer!

Orthodontic RetainerYour teeth are used to moving, & because the gum & bone around your teeth aren’t very strong when your braces are taken off, your teeth can move back toward their original positions over time. That’s why your doctor will give you a retainer to wear after removing your braces—that retainer will keep your teeth from shifting back & help maintain your new smile!

What Is a Retainer?

Retainers help keep your teeth in place after your braces are removed. There are many different kinds of retainers, including permanent & removable ones made with either wire or plastic. Your dentist will help determine which kind of retainer is best for you.

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers can be put into & removed from your mouth easily. One kind of removable retainer is made from clear plastic. These retainers hold teeth in the exact position they were moved to & also help protect your teeth from grinding. Clear plastic retainers are often less expensive than other types of retainers, but they sometimes don’t last as long.

Some other removable retainers are made from a combination of plastic or acrylic & a metal wire. These retainers can be adjusted & allow the bite to “settle” into a more comfortable position over time. Although these wire retainers last longer than clear ones, they do not protect the teeth from grinding.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are just that—permanent! They last for years & can’t be lost, so you never have to worry about misplacing them. It can be difficult to floss with a permanent retainer in, but their convenience is hard to beat.

How Long Do I Need to Wear a Retainer?

Most patients will need to wear their retainer full time for a few months after getting their braces removed. After that, many people are able to wear it only at night. Ideally, you’ll do this for at least as long as your braces were on. Although your teeth are less likely to move quickly after wearing a retainer full time for a few months, they can still move, so it’s important to continue wearing your retainer at night to avoid this.

When it comes to wearing a retainer, consistency is key. Although many patients wear their retainers nightly for life, as time goes on, it’s generally okay to skip a few nights of wearing it. The best way to ensure your teeth remain aligned, though, is to continue wearing your retainer at least every couple of nights, if not every night. Not wearing one at all risks undoing all the hard work done while you had braces!

Cleaning Your Retainer

It’s important to clean your retainer for several reasons. For one, you’re putting it in your mouth, & you definitely don’t want any dirt or dust getting in your mouth! Also, not cleaning your retainer can allow bacteria & germs to develop, which can make you sick & lead to tooth decay, gum disease or other infections.

First, you can help keep your retainer clean by brushing & flossing your teeth each time before you use it. This prevents large amounts of food particles & other general bacteria from getting on your retainer.

After each use, wash your retainer in warm water. You can also brush it with a separate toothbrush & mild antibacterial soap. Be sure not to use toothpaste on your retainer, though, as it’s too abrasive & could damage it.

You should also deep clean your retainer once a week. To do this, you can soak it in a denture cleaner or a mixture of mouthwash & water. You can also soak your retainer in distilled vinegar & hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes each, & thoroughly rinse it with water after. As a general rule, you should never put your retainer or its case in the dishwasher, since the high heat can warp the plastic.

After you clean your retainer, always let it air dry before putting it back in its case. Putting your retainer in its case while it’s still wet creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow! Letting it dry only takes about 15 minutes & will help ensure it stays clean.

Finally, you can ensure that your case stays clean by washing it every few days. If you’re not cleaning your case, then cleaning your retainer won’t do much good!

If you have questions about your retainer or how it fits, ask your dentist! They’ll be able to answer your questions & keep your teeth in the best shape possible!

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