Keeping your teeth in perfect alignment requires some smart decisions and continued execution once orthodontic treatment is complete. We’re here to make sure you know the important basics of proper retainer care to increase the longevity of your retainer and make sure your pearly whites stay looking their best for the long haul!
Orthodontic treatment involves the systematic application of consistent forces to encourage teeth to move in desirable and predictable ways through the bone that make up our jaws. As your orthodontist pulls and pushes the teeth, the ligaments that attach your teeth to the surrounding bones are stretched or compressed which encourages a remodeling of the bone that holds the teeth and allows the teeth to move.
Once your braces are removed, the new freedom that the teeth ligaments experience might slowly and gradually spring back into their old places. This relapse process can be amplified when proper oral hygiene is not being maintained. The retainers that orthodontists make for patients are designed to keep the teeth in the final, ideal position while the bone around the teeth recalcifies and strengthens. Whether you or your child wore Invisalign or metal braces, retainers are vital following treatment.
The first four to six months after braces are removed is the critical period when the bone is healing and hardens in their new positions. And, due to the forces that the chewing muscles exert on the teeth and the amount of function our mouth experiences, the healing process in the bones around the teeth takes longer than a typical bone fracture.
So, clearly retainers are critical to successful maintenance of orthodontic treatment. Seeing the importance, you may be wondering how to make your retainers last? Aside from brushing your retainer to keep it clean, here is a rundown of what to do and what not to do with retainers.
Don’t play with your retainer.
Don’t squeeze it. Don’t flip it with your tongue. Don’t bite it into place. These bad habits can break your retainer. Avoid clicking it on and off. That will ruin the custom fit over time, and also doesn’t count as “wearing” your retainer if you’re constantly clicking it off! Constantly taking the retainer in and out with your tongue and biting it back into position will stretch and fatigue the metal it is made from. Think about playing with a paper clip, bending it back and forth. It will break after a short while.
Don’t lose it. Do use your case.
You can’t make something last if it’s not there! Make sure you don’t lose your retainer. DO use your case to store it. Never tuck it into a piece of tissue or clothing where you risk it getting thrown out in the garbage or in the wash. Don’t put it down somewhere you might forget it or where a pet or a small child can pick it up and ruin it.
Don’t wrap your retainer in tissues or napkins.
Aside from the risk of getting mistaken as trash and thrown out, the fibers in the tissues or napkins can get stuck on your retainer, making it harder to clean.
Do keep it from getting heated which can warp it.
Leave it in a cool dry place when it’s in the case. Leaving it somewhere hot can warp it. Do not put it in the dishwasher to clean.
Do NOT soak it in anything except vinegar and water.
Many chemicals in mouthwashes or denture/retainer cleaning tablets can cause the solder joints to break down and the retainer to fatigue prematurely. The best thing to use is ½ vinegar, ½ water mix at room temperature. That usually helps break up calcium buildup on the retainer so it is easy to brush off.
With proper care, your retainer should last at least 2 years (if not much longer). Talk to our knowledgeable staff if you have questions about your retainer. Periodically, they will wear out or need replacement. We are happy to assist with replacement when it is necessary but hopefully this article helps keep the retainers you were provided at the end of your orthodontic treatment working and looking their best long into the future.
About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan
Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan has specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly and newly renovated office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. Our pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults and are proud to be Premier Providers of Invisalign and Invisalign Teen services. We have the ability to treat all patients with compassion and individuality, including those that may have special needs as we have treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy and customized care options. We pioneered valued hospital affiliations to allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children’s Hospital and St. John Macomb Hospital, when appropriate or necessary, and our specialists are also proud to be on staff at Henry Ford and Beaumont hospitals.