Retainer Care: Do's and Don'ts (2022)

Retainer Care: Do's and Don'ts (1)

From getting a better smile to correcting oral health issues, braces are worth the time, effort and upkeep. Despite all their benefits, no one can argue against the satisfaction you feel when the metal wires finally come off. Now, you have the smile you’ve been looking forward to — for potentially years.

With your braces off, your orthodontist is suddenly putting a putty-like substance in your mouth and telling you you need to wear a retainer afterward. What’s the point of a retainer? To ensure your smile stays stunning, you must practice proper retainer wear and care after wearing braces.

This article will provide you with all the basic information you need to know to make your smile last for a lifetime.

What Do Retainers Do?

In short, retainers have a few duties, including:

  • Stabilizing your bite
  • Preventing treatment reversal
  • Maintaining space for wisdom teeth and new teeth
  • Aligning jawbones with gums
  • Helping teeth hold their position

In general, retainers keep your teeth aligned long after your braces finally come off. Usually, retainers are made of metal, plastic, acrylic or polyurethane and fit to the new positioning of your teeth. This “tool” isstrong enough to prevent your teeth from returning to their original position. Ultimately, whatever your braces originally corrected will stay corrected thanks to the retainer.

Sometimes, you may not have had braces before getting a retainer. If you have mostly straight teeth with one or two that need correcting, your orthodontist may fit you for a retainer to help shift your teeth into place. In this case, your retainer is meant to align your teeth and then keep them that way once they’re in place. Note that retainers differ from aligners — aligners are essentially clear braces that gradually shift your teeth into straighter positions through several cycles.

(Video) How to Clean Retainers (Hawley, Essix, Clear, etc)

To create a custom retainer, your orthodontist will take an impression of your teeth. From there, they’ll send it to a lab that will take the mold and design a retainer that fits inside your mouth. At your next visit, your orthodontist will ensure the retainer fits comfortably before giving you instructions on how to wear it.

Why Are Retainers Needed After Braces?

The teeth are held in place by a tissue layer called cementum. This layer of tissue weakens as braces shift the teeth and jaw to specific positions. After the braces come off, the cementum and your gums will want to move back to their starting positions. Much like a rubber band, the tissue in your mouth will want to snap back to its original shape.

If you don’t wear a retainer, you allow your cementum and gums to shift back — retainers force the tissue to remain in its new position indefinitely. Over time, your teeth will adjust to their new positions with the help of the retainer. Without its help, your teeth would gradually move into their old positions, meaning you may have to get braces again.

Different Types of Retainers

Retainer Care: Do's and Don'ts (2)

Depending on your teeth, your orthodontist may advise that you get a certain retainer. These orthodontic appliances come in three styles — fixed, Hawley and Essix. Here’s a look at each style.

Fixed (Lingual)

These retainers consist of a solid or braided wire that bends around the inside of your teeth. To apply it, your orthodontist cements the wire in place, similar to braces.

A typical reason your orthodontist would recommend a fixed retainer is if they believe your teeth are at a high risk of displacing themselves back to their original positions. A fixed retainer ensures your teeth won’t move, as it can’t come off unless they remove it. These retainers are also common choices for teens, especially when orthodontists think the patient won’t wear a removable retainer.

(Video) Retainer Do's and Dont's

While fixed retainers may require an adjustment period, specifically with your tongue, they’re unnoticeable, and you take care of them just like you would with different types of braces. At the same time, fixed retainers can lead to poor oral hygiene, as they can be tough to maintain. Ensure that you floss daily to remove food particles, taking care to brush them, too.

Hawley

Hawley retainers combine an acrylic or plastic base with metal bands that wrap around your teeth. While the acrylic or plastic portion presses against the roof of your mouth or lower jaw area, the metal bars wrap around your teeth. There’s a bar that wraps around your six top and bottom middle teeth and two bars on each side that hug one of your molars.

When worn, they’re the most noticeable of the three retainer types. However, Hawley retainers are removable and the most durable of the three retainer types. What makes the Hawley retainer ideal for many people is that it offers the most natural feel for your teeth. Since no material covers the tops and bottoms of your teeth, they’re at liberty to rest against one another as they would normally.

Hawley retainers do affect your speech more than the others and will take some adjusting.

Clear (Essix)

Essix retainers offer the most accurate mold of your teeth. The plastic conforms to your teeth’s new positions, including each crevice, to create a perfect fit. These clear retainers work by creating a seal around all sides of your teeth.

So long as your mold and retainer are done correctly, a clear retainer should be practically invisible on your teeth. There could be a slight gap between the bottom of your teeth and the retainer, but it won’t be too noticeable. Because of their almost invisible nature, most people wear clear retainers. Additionally, an Essix retainer won’t usually affect your speech.

Note that clear retainers can warp from heat, are more likely to damage and may discolor over time. Proper clear retainer care is important to help prevent damage and discoloration. If you’re someone who grinds their teeth throughout the day or at night, you should speak with your orthodontist about whether an Essix retainer is a smart choice.

(Video) RETAINERS AFTER BRACES 101 | Everything You Need To Know

Do’s of Wearing Retainers

Like with braces, you should take note of a few “do’s” of wearing your retainer:

  • Do wear your retainer as directed. If your orthodontist recommends you wear it full-time, you should wear it full-time.
  • Do clean your retainer thoroughly by brushing it with cool water.
  • Do take your retainer out when eating.
  • Do keep your retainer in your mouth or designated container. Placing it elsewhere can lead to accidentally damaging or misplacing it.
  • Do bring your retainer with you when you visit the orthodontist.
  • Do write your name and phone number on your retainer case, especially if you wear it in public.
  • Do brush your teeth after every meal and before putting on your retainer.
  • Do use your hands before putting your retainer in your mouth. Make sure it’s correctly in place before biting down. The jaw muscles have a much greater force than your hands, and you can easily break your retainer by biting down when they’re misaligned.

Don’ts of Wearing Retainers

Of course, with do’s come don’ts! Here are a few mistakes you should avoid making while wearing your retainer:

  • Don’t eat foods that can damage a retainer, specifically with fixed retainers.
  • Don’t store or place a retainer in a napkin or other material that could be mistaken for trash and thrown away.
  • Don’t leave a retainer outside of its container for extended periods. This orthodontic equipment can dry out and become brittle and fragile.
  • Don’t boil a retainer in water or clean it with alcohol.
  • Don’t play with a retainer inside of your mouth.
  • Don’t put a retainer inside of the dishwasher.
  • Don’t bite your retainer to shift it into place.
  • Don’t leave a retainer where small children or animals can reach it.
  • Don’t leave a retainer in while eating.
  • Don’t use toothpaste on Hawley or clear retainers — toothpaste can be abrasive and leave scratches that allow for bacterial growth.
  • Don’t brush your retainer with baking soda. Much like toothpaste, it’s abrasive and can leave scratch marks on your retainer.
  • Don’t use a hard-bristled toothbrush to clean them — opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush instead.
  • Don’t soak a retainer in mouthwash.
  • Don’t use bleach to clean a retainer.
  • Don’t drink anything other than water when you wearing your retainer.
  • Don’t leave your retainer in while playing contact sports. Wear a mouthguard.
  • Don’t swim with your retainer in your mouth. If it falls out of your mouth, you may have a hard time finding it afterward. Additionally, chlorinated water can damage the material.
  • Don’t expect one pair of retainers to last you a lifetime. While proper care and maintenance can extend their lifespan, you’ll want to ask your orthodontist for a new one whenever they become too damaged.

Foods to Avoid With Retainers

Retainer Care: Do's and Don'ts (3)

If you wear a fixed retainer, you’ll want to avoid a majority of the same foods you would with braces. These include but are not limited to:

  • Chewing gum
  • Sticky candies
  • Nuts
  • Hard candy
  • Ice
  • Popcorn
  • Tough, chewy foods

For foods like ice and hard candies, the consensus is to not bite down on them. It’s OK to leave them in your mouth to dissolve, but do not attempt to chew them. Any type of food that could become lodged in between your teeth and the retainer or break your retainer should be avoided.

When it comes to one of the removable retainers, your list of foods to avoid isn’t as long. As you’ve probably guessed, you can eat anything with a removable retainer. Before eating or drinking, remove your retainer and eat as you normally would. The only two rules you should concern yourself with are to place your retainer in a safe spot while eating and not attempt to eat with your removable retainer in.

How to Care for Retainers After Braces

Maintaining proper oral hygiene with your retainer is essential. If you don’t practice proper retainer care, you risk tartar and plaque buildup on your teeth and gums. Fortunately, retainer cleaning doesn’t take much effort. So long as you remember a few care tips, your retainer should last a while.

(Video) How to Clean a Clear Retainer & Other Retainer Instructions

If you have a fixed retainer, you’ll want to buy a floss threader to help you remove food from between the metal bar and your teeth. When you brush your teeth, be careful around the retainer, and try to get the bristles in the gap to better remove food and another buildup. Remember to take your time when brushing and flossing — being too rough can cause issues.

Retainer Care: Do's and Don'ts (4)

With removable retainers, you should clean them as often as you would your teeth, about two to three times a day. Ideally, you should clean them after every time you eat, so no food particles and bacteria become trapped between them and your teeth. A quick rinse in cool water works perfectly when you’re in a pinch. For a deeper clean, cool water, scrubbing with a clean soft-bristled toothbrush.

Be cautious when using toothpaste and hard-bristled brushes. These can easily create micro-scratches that house bacteria and are harder to clean. When it comes to cleaning your retainer, the simplest solution is often the best. If you ever want to deep clean your retainer, be sure to ask your orthodontist for specific instructions so you don’t accidentally harm it.

What Should You Do With Your Retainer If It Breaks?

Accidents happen all the time. If you ever lose, damage, or break your retainer, you have options. When the inevitable occurs, you should schedule an appointment with your orthodontist as soon as possible. If you’ve worn your retainer for less than a year, you’ll want to schedule an emergency appointment to have a new retainer made. Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more time your teeth will have to relapse to their original positions.

Schedule a Consultation With Fredericksburg Orthodontics

Don’t give your teeth time to relapse and ruin the smile you spent so long to achieve. Fredericksburg Orthodontics will take care of all your retainer needs. Our ABO-certified orthodontists will assist you in replacing your damaged, broken or lost retainer and set you on the path to straightening your teeth. Over more than 16 years, we’ve treated 12,000 smiles — and counting!

(Video) 5 Things You Must Know About Retainers

Schedule an appointment today to keep your smile as perfect as possible.

FAQs

What should you not do with a retainer? ›

Never pull on the center of the wire. You should always be sure that your retainers are seated completely. Do not allow them to “flop” around. Don't leave your retainers in a hot car or put in hot water (such as a boiling them or putting them into the dishwasher.)

What are the rules for retainers? ›

DO NOT wear the retainers while participating in sports or swimming. NEVER eat anything while wearing your retainers. It's OK to drink water while wearing the retainers, but remove them if you drink other beverages. If you forget to wear your retainer, wear the retainer full-time for few days to re-align your teeth.

Should I store my retainer wet or dry? ›

Make sure that it is completely dry before putting it in its case. A moist environment in the case can allow bacteria to grow as well. Don't ever leave your retainer (in or out of its case) in your car, by the stove, or anywhere else that could get hot.

Can u kiss with retainers? ›

“I have a long term boyfriend, so kissing is a little weird” Emma admits. Okay, yes aligners and retainers may seem like a mood killer, but they don't have to spoil that romantic moment. Depending on how comfortable you feel, you may find it easier to be open about needing to take them out.

Should retainers be kept in water? ›

Water for cleaning on the go

Keeping a retainer moist will help prevent damage. Water also combats a dry mouth, which is linked to tooth decay.

Can I leave my retainer in water overnight? ›

Yes. Your retainer can be soaked in water to keep the plastic from drying out. You can leave it soaking overnight while you sleep, and clean it in the morning before putting it back on.

Is it okay to sleep with retainers? ›

Most orthodontists advise their patients to wear their retainers for the rest of their lives. However, the retainers only need to be worn at night and skipping a night here and there is no big deal. So retainers really aren't so bad! Except at the very start of your treatment, you'll be asleep while it's in any way.

How long do retainers last? ›

They generally last anywhere from three to ten years. How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible? Keep it in its case.

Can I brush my retainer with toothpaste? ›

Always use a soft bristle toothbrush when cleaning your retainer. Just use water, do not use toothpaste. The abrasives in toothpaste, although good for your teeth, can scratch your retainer. Scratches on your retainer cause problems other than just looking worn.

Do you have to brush your teeth after every meal with a retainer? ›

Care and Use of Hawley Retainers

Your retainers should be worn at all times. It is only necessary to remove your retainers while brushing your teeth. When you brush your teeth after every meal, brush your retainers with your toothbrush and toothpaste.

Can I drink coffee with retainers? ›

Do not put your retainer in your pocket, where it could be broken or bent. The retainers are clear and therefore can discolor if drinking coffee, tea, pop, dark juices or anything that is not a clear liquid. It is recommended that the beverage of choice while wearing the clear retainers is water.

What is the white stuff on my retainer? ›

The white layer is a buildup of calcium deposits from your saliva. Plaque and tartar from your mouth stick to your retainer if you're not cleaning it regularly. Fill a cup with white vinegar and soak your retainer. In a few minutes, brush the retainer thoroughly.

How do I deep clean my retainer? ›

For a deeper clean, mix lukewarm water with mild dish soap (toothpastes are abrasive and can scratch the retainer's surface). Use a soft toothbrush or denture brush to gently scrub away plaque and other debris. If necessary, use a cotton swab to get into the deepest grooves and ridges on clear plastic retainers.

Can I soak my retainer in mouthwash? ›

Never soak your retainer in HOT/boiling water or run it through the dishwasher ; it can melt it and distort it. Never soak your retainer in mouthwash, rubbing alcohol, or bleach; the chemicals will distort it.

Does retainer make your breath smell? ›

Many people believe that some part of their appliances must be causing the stench. However, this is not the case. Braces or retainers contribute to bad breath just as much as normal teeth do. The real culprit is halitosis-inducing bacteria.

How do you brush with a permanent retainer? ›

How to Clean Permanent Retainers! Tips & Easy Tricks - YouTube

Can u feel a permanent retainer? ›

Permanent retainers are not visible when you smile, although you will be able to feel the wire on the back side of your teeth.

Why do my retainers smell? ›

As a byproduct of its growth, bacteria produce gas as a waste product. This adds to the odor that comes from your retainer and the stench in your mouth. In addition, germs have a role in forming plaque and tartar on your teeth and retainer, both of which can be caused by improper oral hygiene.

Can I wearing retainers without brushing teeth? ›

Just like with braces, retainers also need precautions, and you must follow some oral hygiene tips to ensure your progress with your teeth is not harmed. Whether your dentist gives you plastic or a metal retainer, you must brush your teeth before putting them back in your mouth.

At what temperature do retainers melt? ›

Instead, soak your retainers in a denture cleaning product like Efferdent once a week to keep them clean. Don't Leave It In The Hot Car – Temperatures in a closed car during the summer can reach temperatures in excess of 130 degrees. Retainers will melt in these temperatures, so remember to take them with you.

How long should I soak my retainer in mouthwash? ›

Cleaning Your Retainer With Denture Cleaner

After allowing it to soak for 15-20 minutes place the retainer in non-alcoholic mouthwash and let it soak for at least 30 minutes to several hours. Make sure the mouthwash doesn't contain alcohol, since the alcohol found in mouthwash will damage your retainer.

How often should you clean your retainer? ›

Clean retainers thoroughly at least once a day preferably right before inserting them in your mouth. Use cold - not hot water. Rinsing your retainers removes the plaque, and eliminates odors. At least once every two weeks, soak your retainers in a denture cleaner, like Efferdent®, to thoroughly clean them.

How do I keep my retainer case from smelling? ›

Make sure to clean your case daily and consider running it through the dishwasher at least once a week for deep cleaning. This helps reduce the bacteria on your retainer and keeps it smelling fresh.

Can I leave my retainer out for a few hours? ›

Here's the short answer: As long as you want your teeth to remain straight, you should be wearing your retainers. It is recommended you wear your retainer at least 12 hours out of every day for the first eight weeks following the completion of your treatment.

Can I stop wearing my retainer after 2 years? ›

Retainers keep your smile in place when active treatment is complete and adults need to wear their retainers for life, but adolescents may be able to stop wearing them after about 10 years.

Can you drink milk with retainers? ›

When your retainer is in your mouth DO NOT eat chocolate, sweets, chewing gum etc. Or drink sugary or fizzy drinks (incl. diet varieties) and acidic fruit juices. Water and milk are best.

How long does a retainer take to straighten teeth? ›

Typically, people wear their retainers full time for 4–6 months. Also, most dentists recommend wearing retainers at least every night for the rest of one's life. This prevents teeth from shifting back out of position.

Will my teeth shift back if I wear my retainer again? ›

The new retainer will only be able to keep your teeth where they currently are; it cannot always realign your teeth back to their fresh-out-of-treatment position. Teeth that relapse significantly will likely require another orthodontic treatment.

What happens if you forget your retainer for one night? ›

When you forget to wear your retainers for one night or a few nights in a row, you may find that they are a little tight when you first put them in. This is ok as long as they begin to feel right again after a few hours. The teeth can often shift back into place when they are only slightly shifted.

How do dentists clean retainers? ›

Your dentist has an ultrasonic cleaner and special cleaning solutions that can disinfect the retainers and remove any buildup without the use of toxic chemicals.

Can retainers cause yellow teeth? ›

They can. In fact, many patients struggle with the yellowing of their retainers that can occur due to plaque buildup and staining from certain foods. Luckily, there are some small changes you can make to avoid staining your Invisalign trays and retainers.

Why do my retainers smell in the morning? ›

Your Retainer Smells Bad. Does your retainer stink of morning breath? This is most likely due to an accumulation of oral bacteria. Over 700 different types of bacteria are naturally found in the mouth, and they easily build up in the night as you sleep.

Do retainers hurt the first day? ›

It's normal for a retainer to be uncomfortable, tight, or a bit painful for the first few days of wearing it. Even if the discomfort extends to a full week, it's still usually not a cause for alarm. However, if you experience retainer pain for more than a full week, it's time to call your orthodontist.

How do I know if my retainer doesn't fit? ›

To test if your retainer still fits, you can place it gently in your mouth and see if it slips into place. If your retainer fits correctly, it will feel somewhat snug and gradually loosen up to eliminate any discomfort. If it doesn't fit easily, make an appointment with your orthodontist to ask for help.

Can I eat gum with retainers? ›

Do not chew gum because it will stick to your retainer and may warp the retainer. Keep your retainer in its retainer case to prevent its loss and breakage, this means when you are not wearing your retainers they should be in their case.

Can you drink hot water with retainers? ›

If you drop retainers on the ground DO NOT PUT THEM IN HOT OR BOILING WATER. You may not drink hot liquids with retainers in your mouth: i.e. coffee, tea, soup, or hot chocolate. Keep retainers AWAY FROM DOGS AND CATS. Pets have been known to chew through retainer cases.

How many hours a day should I wear retainers? ›

How many hours should you wear your retainer? The first three months after you've completed your orthodontic treatment you need to wear your retainers full-time, which means approximately 22 hours a day. That does mean you will need to sleep with them. However, you can remove them when you eat or brush your teeth.

Will tea stain my retainer? ›

Certain Foods and Beverages Will Stain Your Retainer

You may already know that beverages, such as coffee, tea, and red wine, can cause stains to appear on your teeth. They can also stain your Essix retainer, causing discoloration.

Do you brush your teeth with retainers on? ›

Care and Use of Hawley Retainers

Your retainers should be worn at all times. It is only necessary to remove your retainers while brushing your teeth. When you brush your teeth after every meal, brush your retainers with your toothbrush and toothpaste.

What happens if I eat with my retainer in? ›

If you regularly wear your retainer while eating, your teeth will likely shift since the constant chewing movement will inevitably loosen the retainer's fit.

Can you smile with retainers? ›

Wearing your retainers as directed is the most important thing you can do to keep your smile as straight as the first day braces free. Your retainers prevent your teeth from shifting and your bite from changing. If you don't wear them, your teeth will slowly move back to your original, “pre-orthodontic” smile.

Can I drink coffee with my retainer in? ›

Do not put your retainer in your pocket, where it could be broken or bent. The retainers are clear and therefore can discolor if drinking coffee, tea, pop, dark juices or anything that is not a clear liquid. It is recommended that the beverage of choice while wearing the clear retainers is water.

Can I leave my retainer in water overnight? ›

Yes. Your retainer can be soaked in water to keep the plastic from drying out. You can leave it soaking overnight while you sleep, and clean it in the morning before putting it back on.

How long do retainers last? ›

They generally last anywhere from three to ten years. How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible? Keep it in its case.

Can I leave my retainer out for a few hours? ›

Here's the short answer: As long as you want your teeth to remain straight, you should be wearing your retainers. It is recommended you wear your retainer at least 12 hours out of every day for the first eight weeks following the completion of your treatment.

How do you sleep with a retainer? ›

Should I wear my retainer while sleeping? Yes, you should always wear your retainer at night while you sleep. In the beginning of retainer wear, you'll wear it around the clock, but to ensure your smile stays straight for a lifetime, you'll want to continue wearing your retainer at night forever.

Should I be able to remove my retainer with my tongue? ›

DO NOT REMOVE/POP OUT YOUR RETAINERS WITH YOUR TONGUE! The wire will break, which will necessitate a new retainer. After approximately 6 months you will be able to wear your retainers at night only. Night time wear is determined by the doctor and is based on the stability of your teeth.

Can I drink milk with retainers? ›

When your retainer is in your mouth DO NOT eat chocolate, sweets, chewing gum etc. Or drink sugary or fizzy drinks (incl. diet varieties) and acidic fruit juices. Water and milk are best.

Do I have to wear retainers forever? ›

To maintain a straight smile for a lifetime, you're going to need to wear your retainers nightly for the rest of your life. The good news is, after some time it won't be necessary to wear them as often.

How much is a permanent retainer? ›

How much do permanent retainers cost? A permanent, or bonded, retainer may cost from $150 to $500 to put in place or replace if lost or broken. The cost of the initial placement may be included in the overall cost of your braces.

How much do retainers cost? ›

Typically, retainers can cost anywhere from $250 to $600 per set without insurance. The final cost will largely depend on whether you choose a permanent or removable retainer, the specific circumstances of your treatment, and which orthodontic practice provides your treatment.

Can you drink hot water with retainers? ›

If you drop retainers on the ground DO NOT PUT THEM IN HOT OR BOILING WATER. You may not drink hot liquids with retainers in your mouth: i.e. coffee, tea, soup, or hot chocolate. Keep retainers AWAY FROM DOGS AND CATS. Pets have been known to chew through retainer cases.

At what temperature do retainers melt? ›

Instead, soak your retainers in a denture cleaning product like Efferdent once a week to keep them clean. Don't Leave It In The Hot Car – Temperatures in a closed car during the summer can reach temperatures in excess of 130 degrees. Retainers will melt in these temperatures, so remember to take them with you.

Can you eat with clear retainers? ›

How do I eat with my clear retainer? You can take it out while you eat and drink! In fact, you should always remove your retainer when eating or drinking. It can break with the pressure of your bite, or food and liquid can get stuck between the plastic and your teeth.

Videos

1. RETAINERS | Everything You Need To Know
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2. Eating and Drinking With Retainers! | The Do's and Don'ts
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3. How Long Should I Wear A Retainer For After Braces? | Premier Orthodontics
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4. She Didn’t Wear Her Retainers For MONTHS… She Put Them In And THIS Happened | TheBentist
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5. 6 Tips To Clean Removable & Permanent Retainers [Dentist Advice]
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6. Man Leaves Retainer in for FIVE YEARS! 💀🧐 #Shorts
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