Once the hard work of straightening your teeth is completed, the next phase of your orthodontic treatment begins – keeping your teeth aligned! You don’t want any setbacks after taking the time to get them straightened. This means wearing your retainer as prescribed by Dr. Hockel and Dr. Adair, to allow bone tissue to rebuild around the teeth and keep the teeth from shifting when you bite, chew, swallow and speak.
Whether your removable retainer is made of acrylic or clear plastic, it will need care and protection in order to keep your teeth in the aligned position your orthodontic journey left them. If you have a fixed retainer, this is typically a metal wire bonded to the back of your front teeth that stays in all the time. Most patients have a Hawley retainer, which is molded to fit in your mouth with a wire that holds the retainer in place in front of the teeth. You’ll be wearing your retainer(s) at night while you sleep and need to keep it clean when it’s not in your mouth.
This simple step can’t be overemphasized. Wearing your retainer is the only thing that will keep your teeth from shifting back into their pre-treatment, unaligned position. Whether you need to wear it all day or just at night, be sure you follow Dr. Hockel’s and Dr. Adair’s instructions.
Keep It Clean
It’s not just your pearly whites that need cleaning; your retainer needs to be germ-and-bacteria-free! You can brush it with your soft-bristled toothbrush when you brush and floss your teeth. Cleaning solutions to rinse or soak the retainer in can be a mouthwash or a denture-cleaning tablet. If you have any questions, check with our dental team for specifics.
Take It out Before Eating
You’ll need to wear your removable retainer as prescribed, except when you eat. Retainers aren’t made for chewing (unless they’re permanent). Removing your retainer allows you to eat your favorite foods without harming the appliance and keeps oral debris from hiding behind your retainer and getting stuck there.
Keep your removable retainer in its container when it’s not in your mouth. You don’t want to lose it, nor do you want to accidentally throw it away after eating, nor put it someplace where it will pick up germs and bacteria, like letting your dog chew it.
Because of the material, an acrylic or plastic retainer can be warped or damaged by high heat. That means cleaning it with warm, not hot, water. No cleaning it in boiling water, the dishwasher, microwave, washing machine, dryer, or leaving it in the car on a hot day.
Wear a Sports Guard
Don’t wear your retainer when you’re playing contact or high impact sports. But definitely wear a sports guard to protect your teeth and oral tissues; just be sure to put your retainer back on after playing.
Bottom line: always wear your retainer and take good care of it, and it will take good care of you! If you have any problems with your retainer, let our orthodontic team know right away. It shouldn’t be loose or tight but should fit just right. Whenever you come in for follow-up visits, bring it with you to be checked. Enjoy your beautifully aligned smile!