How to Care for Your Retainer

Practice makes perfect and with all the practice you’ve experienced taking care of your braces or aligners, taking care of your retainer won’t cause a frown. While it would be great to skip the retainer step in the orthodontic process, it’s helpful to consider your retainer more like an insurance policy on the hard work you and Dr. Sohn have completed to achieve your perfect smile!

A retainer is a simple orthodontic device custom-fit to your new smile and is worn for a specified time to hold your teeth in place. Since retainers aren’t as strong as braces, they don’t move your teeth but keep them from moving. 

For this part of orthodontic treatment, many patients must use their retainer for extended hours each day, slowly reducing the wear time to just at night. Our knowledgeable team at Sohn Orthodontics will evaluate your specific situation to determine which option best suits your needs to keep your newly aligned smile in line. 

Caring for the Different Types of Retainers

Essentially, there are two types of retainer options: removable and permanent. Depending on the treatment plan you just completed with Sohn Orthodontics and based on your specific orthodontic needs, you may receive one type or a combination of each type of retainer. Let’s look at these options and how to care for them below.

Removable Retainers

There are many advantages to a removable retainer, especially after you’ve just escaped the cumbersome hold of treatment with braces or aligners. Most patients will need to wear them full time (except for eating and brushing) and then progress to nighttime wear for a few nights a week. And being that they are made from an impression or scan of your teeth, they are easy to obtain when needed. 

But, for every upside, there can be a downside, and having removable retainers can lead to them getting lost or easily discarded when taken out to eat. Some patients experience excess saliva production with removable retainers, as well. Because bacteria from your saliva can grow and live on the retainers, they will need to be cleaned often and possibly replaced. The biggest issue most patients face with removable retainers is that relapse is common if they aren’t worn as directed by Dr. Sohn.

The two most common removable retainer options are Hawley retainers and Essix retainers.

Hawley Retainers

This removable retainer comprises plastic or acrylic molded to fit inside your mouth with a metal wire used to hold your teeth in place. A Hawley retainer is relatively easy to clean and doesn’t prevent your teeth from fitting together naturally though it is the most visible retainer option. This option is also adjustable where others are not. 

Essix Retainers

Essix retainers are often confused for clear aligners because they are made similarly of molded, clear plastic that fits over your teeth, making it virtually impossible to know you are wearing them. Because this option is made of plastic, it is less durable and will need to be replaced more often.

Retainers like the Essix retainer do prevent your top and bottom teeth from touching naturally and can trap liquids against your teeth until the retainer is removed. While bacteria are less likely to live and grow on this type of retainer, the shape and construction of this option often require careful cleaning. 

How to Care for Your Retainer

Tips for caring for your removable retainer

Clean your retainer often.

  • Cleaning it as soon as you take it out while it is still wet will make it easier to wipe away debris.
  • Don’t use toothpaste which can be abrasive. Instead, use warm water with a soft toothbrush, and for tougher buildup, you can use a small amount of mild dish soap and a denture brush to scrub it away.
  • Before soaking your retainer in any dental solutions, talk with Dr. Sohn to ensure your specific retainer will not be damaged. 
  • Don’t forget to clean the case you store your retainer in! It’s an excellent place for bacteria to hide away.

Keep your retainer away from heat.

  • Heat can damage both plastic and acrylic, so use warm water when cleaning.
  • Avoid putting or leaving your retainer in boiling water, the microwave, the dishwasher, the dryer, the washing machine, or storing it in a hot vehicle. 

Replace it as needed.

  • Though you may have been instructed to wear your retainer permanently, it will still need to be replaced eventually. Both accidents and normal wear can cause the material it is made of to degrade, which makes the retainer not as effective as it was intended. 

Another good tip is to keep your retainer far from your pet’s reach. Between the taste and chewy texture, pets seem to be a significant factor in the replacement needs of post orthodontic treatment removable retainers.

Permanent Retainers

Permanent retainers are sometimes called fixed or bonded retainers because they consist of a metal bar that is bonded or set on the back of your teeth to hold your teeth in their perfect position. This position makes this retainer option more cosmetic aesthetic as the metal wire or bar is not seen. However, not being removable can make it more difficult to brush and floss around this retainer option. 

This type of retainer becomes like part of your mouth, and as such, you will clean it as you brush and floss your teeth and rinse with mouthwash. There are particular types of floss and brush tools that you can also use to get a little advantage on your reach. It may also take some time for your tongue to get used to the new appliance.

How to Care for Your Retainer

Retain your smile with Sohn Orthodontics

From the moment you contact our office to your final retainer check appointment, our goal at Sohn Orthodontics is your complete satisfaction. We’re proud to offer many different technologies, so you have the option that works best for you!

If you still have questions or need some guidance on caring for your retainer, our expert team will help. Give us a call or schedule your appointment at our Bridgeville, PA, office for all of your retainer needs today!