Best Practices for Making the Most of Your Retainer

Best Practices for Making the Most of Your Retainer

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with braces or aligners, one thing’s for sure: Getting straight teeth and a gorgeous new smile is going to be a fairly big investment of your time. Once your initial phase of treatment (the straightening part) is over, you want to be sure your results last. That's where your retainer comes in.

Braces and aligners shift your teeth into their new positions. But it can take some time for those new positions to really “take root.” Your retainer holds your teeth in proper alignment while your tooth roots become firm and stable.

Brendan Smith, DDS, MS, and our team at Freedom Orthodontics in Cedar Park, Texas, want you to get the most from your orthodontic treatment — and that includes wearing your retainer. In this post, Dr, Smith offers six simple tips to make wearing your retainer a breeze.

1. Wear your retainer as directed

Most people need to wear their retainers every day, all day (and night), for the first few months after treatment, eventually tapering down to several hours a day for several months afterward. 

Dr. Smith provides you with your specific wear instructions when you receive your retainer. Following those instructions is really important. If you don’t wear your retainer as often as you’re supposed to, you can lengthen your treatment time. 

2. Use a retainer case

While you might need to wear your retainer most of the day, there are times when it will be out of your mouth — during meals, for instance. When your retainer isn’t in your mouth, get in the habit of keeping it in its case (not wrapping it in a napkin that can be accidentally tossed out). The case will keep your retainer protected, so it doesn’t get bent or broken. 

3. Keep your retainer clean

Your retainer can harbor a lot of germs, including bacteria that can cause gum disease or cavities. Cleaning it regularly — whenever you brush your teeth — helps get rid of germs to protect your teeth and gums. Plus, it keeps your mouth and breath fresh. While you’re at it, clean the retainer case too.

4. Avoid leaving your retainer near direct heat

Your retainer is made of a type of plastic material that can warp or bend if exposed to heat. Never leave your retainer in the direct sunlight or near a heat source, like a radiator. And never rinse it in boiling water.

5. Take your retainer out to eat (and to swim!)

Retainers aren’t designed to withstand the rigors of biting and chewing. Eating while your retainer is in place could bend it out of shape, so it doesn't work the way it’s supposed to. Take it out for meals and, if you can, rinse it before putting it back in your mouth.

If you like to swim, take your retainer out (and store it safely in its case) before heading into the water. Most people tend to open and close their mouths more during swimming, which makes it easier for your retainer to fall out and get lost. Plus, the chlorine used in pool water could damage the retainer material.

6. If your retainer is damaged, get a replacement ASAP

Retainers are durable, but they can still be damaged. If you break your retainer (or your pet makes a chew toy out of it), don’t wait until your next office visit to tell us. Call the office right away, so we can get you a replacement as soon as possible and keep your treatment on track. 

At first, wearing a retainer might seem like a nuisance. But before long, your retainer will become a normal part of your daily routine, maintaining your results so you can enjoy a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

To learn more about retainers or orthodontic treatment, call our office or request an appointment online today.

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