You are finally finished with your journey in braces, which included taking special precautions with food and hygiene. If you wore removable braces—such as Invisalign—you are already familiar with what comes next. Those who had traditional brackets are in for a new chapter in orthodontic care known as the retention phase of treatment.
Why Retainers Are Important
Your orthodontist will fit you for a removable retainer, which is an appliance you wear over your teeth to keep them in place. You will also receive, in most cases, a fixed retainer. This is a thin orthodontic wire that is bonded onto the lingual side (behind) of your teeth. This wire covers your first six teeth, canine to canine. Permanent retainers and removable retainers are vitally important to maintain the progress than you likely just spent a year or two (or three) creating.
Your newly positioned teeth will want to return to the “natural” position they were in before the braces moved them. This is called relapse, and without a retainer, all the improvement you see now will undo itself relatively quickly—in fact, in as little as two days.
The orthodontist will probably ask you to wear your retainer all day for the first two months after braces are removed, then switch over to nighttime wear. Like braces, your retainer might initially cause a sensation of discomfort or pressure, which will resolve as your mouth adjusts to the new appliance.
Wearing your retainer as instructed is important. One key reason that adults make up a large percentage of current orthodontic patients is that they did not wear retainers appropriately the first time they had braces (often because the retention phase was not previously emphasized as much as it is now).
Top Ways Retainers are Lost
If you have a teenager, you already know that items occasionally go missing.Many patients need to replace their retainers due to losing, or breaking their retainers. Retainers also tend to be a target for dogs, because it smells like you. Between school, homework, sports and activities, and adventures with friends, many opportunities exist for those retainers to disappear.
Losing It In the Lunchroom
If your child is wearing a removable retainer during the day, it will need to come out when she eats. And then, as the lunch bell rings and she rushes off to class, it can all too easily go right in the garbage with the other contents of her tray. Emphasize that when out of your teen’s mouth, the retainer needs to be placed in its plastic case that we provide the day the braces are removed.
Misplacing It On Vacation
Why does it seem like every time you travel, something gets left behind? If you or your teen are wearing a retainer, this seems like a common time for the appliance to go missing. You might want to set a reminder on your phone or write a note to specifically remember to locate your retainer, and make a note of where you set it down.
Leaving It Out For The Dog To Eat
Your dog loves you and is highly attracted to your scent. And there’s almost nothing that contains a bigger package of scent molecules that an item that’s been stewing in your saliva. So it’s all too common for a retainer to be left out of the case and within reach and then devoured by your favorite canine buddy.
You can avoid giving your four-legged friend an unintentional treat by making sure your retainer always stays in its case when you’re not using it, and that you place it somewhere out of reach.
A Sibling Destroys It
If you have little ones running around, a rogue retainer can make an attractive toy to play with or break. When not in use, the retainer always should be kept out of reach of younger children, and selecting a case that is harder to open can also help.
Falling Out Of A Pocket
When retainers are shoved into a pocket they are inclined to fall out—especially if your child is active and his retainer is not in a case. Retainers on their own are very lightweight and easily fall out of pockets undetected. Avoid putting retainers in pockets anyway to minimize exposure to germs and risk of breaking or misshaping it. And, in case you haven’t caught on yet, retainers should always be kept in their cases.
Falling Out Of A Backpack
The quickest place to stick a retainer case is in the small pouch of a school backpack. Make sure your child takes the extra second to secure it one of the inside pouches, where it’s next stop won’t be the ground if he forgets to zip it up.
Ways To Care For Your Retainer
Brush It Along With Your Teeth
Your mouth is a magnet for bacteria, and wearing a retainer over your teeth just locks and seals them in. After wearing your retainer all day, brush it with a toothbrush and rinse it thoroughly. Just be sure to skip the toothpaste, as some kinds can be abrasive to the retainer and cause scratches that make it harder to keep clean. You can easily add this step to your brushing routine and keep your retainer in great shape.
Soak It Occasionally
If the idea of skipping the toothpaste makes you wary, you can soak your retainer as a way to add a little extra clean to it. You can make your own cleaning solution by adding a touch of baking soda to water, or using white vinegar and letting it absorb for 10-15 minutes once a week.
If a retainer has been dropped on the ground or even rescued in one piece from Fido’s mouth, don’t boil it to disinfect it. The high heat will destroy it. Using the methods described above will be sufficient. Similarly, avoid leaving your retainer in a hot area like a windowsill or car in warm weather.
Don’t Lose It!
It’s easy to say not to lose your retainer but, even when you have taken all the necessary precautions, accidents still happen. The important thing is to replace a lost or damaged retainer immediately. Your teeth are hypermobile during the phase after removing your braces, and they will shift out of place quickly. If you wait several weeks to replace your retainer, it may no longer fit.
If you are worried about losing your retainer, be sure to ask our office about our Retainer Replacement Plan. Remember, insurance doesn’t cover retainer replacements so our in office plan is a great way to have coverage if you are worried about losing retainers.