How to Properly Maintain Your Retainer

If you have a crooked bite, under bite, or over bite, you will typically get braces to correct these issues. But after your braces come off, it is common to get an orthodontic solution such as a retainer will come into play. A retainer helps to keep your teeth in their new locations, instead of shifting around again once the braces are removed. This gives your gums and your upper and lower jawbones the chance to firm up and hold the new position for your teeth. For minor corrections, you may even just be given a retainer.

What a retainer is – it’s a removable device made of acrylic or rubber that acts as artificial connective tissue. It is usually molded to your gums, and has a metal wire that comes up and fits over the front of your teeth to hold the retainer in place. Sometimes, especially if the goal is to prevent your teeth from moving back to their previous location, you will be fitted for a clear retainer that doesn’t require metal wiring. These are made up of a thermoplastic material that when heated up can be molded as a permanent cast for your teeth.

If the reason for you to get a retainer is to correct a bite issue, the total cost of molding, visits to the orthodontist, X-rays, and other costs will typically run between $500 and $1000 dollars, and replacing a lost or defective retainer can run you anywhere between $150 and $250 dollars. So it is very important to take care of your retainer. A very simple way to do that is to only wear your retainer when you are supposed to. This way you reduce the risk of losing it, breaking it, or even throwing it away.

When you are not using your retainer, you will want to keep it in its case. NEVER wrap it up in a napkin and leave it on the table. Doing this may result in you throwing it away unknowingly.

Bacteria and plaque also threaten the life of your retainer. They build up on your retainer just the same as on your teeth. This will make your retainer less than hygienic and can affect the fit. Your retainer will develop a nasty odor. To prevent this, you will want to buy a toothbrush with extra soft bristles, and brush your retainer every time you brush your teeth. The extra soft bristles will prevent any scratches that could be damaging. You will also want to look for a gentle toothpaste. For example, toothpaste meant for people with canker sores. You will also want to get an anti-bacterial or anti-fungal rinse, and soak you retainer once a week. Then soak it in water before putting it back in your mouth. One option is to use Retainer Bright, a daily cleaning kit similar to Alka Seltzer. Using this product can keep your retainer smelling good and keep you from getting sick. Just make sure that you check with your orthodontist before using cleaners, because some of them may rust and corrode you’re the wires on your retainer.

Never put your retainer in boiling water, in the washing machine, direct sunlight, or the dishwasher. This heat can cause your retainer to crack and the wires may come loose. It can also cause the acrylic to warp and distort, and it won’t fit your mouth anymore. Failing to properly care for your retainer can increase the time that you are getting orthodontic treatment. So wear it when you are supposed to, and make sure you keep it clean. And be sure to keep them out of reach of pets and children.

Written by Dr. Darren Wittenberger, the best orthodontist Columbia MO has to offer, and owner of his own practice, Advance Orthodontics. Dr. Wittenberger enjoys sharing his expertise to ensure people can maintain the healthiest, straightest teeth possible!