Your orthodontic treatment has been completed, your teeth look great and function properly, and now you need to maintain your results. Teeth tend to move throughout our lives, whether our not they’ve been straightened. Retainers are passive devices that resist the natural tendency for teeth to move. Some retainers are fixed, or bonded to the tongue side of the teeth. This article will focus on the removable types of retainers. There are various types of removable retainers, from clear molded plastic to wire and acrylic. The rubbery positioner appliances are typically made of urethane. Regardless of they type of retainer you are using, you’ll want to take proper care of them to make sure they last as long as possible and stay effective.
Proper care of retainers
- Protect them from heat. Heat can cause retainers to distort, to dry out, and to become brittle.
- When not in your mouth, keep them in a safe place, such as in a retainer case, out of reach from pets. Dogs are particularly attracted to retainers, they don’t tend to treat them kindly.
- Keep your regular adjustment appointments, as your orthodontist will check the condition of your retainer and assure that they are properly adjusted.
- Keep them clean to avoid unsightly stains, mineral build-up, and nasty smells.
You have a number of options for cleaning retainers, including commercially available retainer cleaning products, toothpaste, mouthwash, baking soda, diluted vinegar, or diluted bleach. Here are my recommendations:
- Some retainer materials, such as acrylic, are porous. I recommended against using bleach, even if diluted, due to risk of long-term exposure of your oral tissues.
- Some commercial retainer cleaners contain persulfate, which the FDA has warned can cause allergic reactions. Persulfates are also corrosive to solder joints (note–I rarely use retainers with solder joints). Stick to the non-persulfate cleaners, as allergies can develop over time. Here is a useful chart for determining which retainer cleaner meets your needs: dentalkit.com
- If you use toothpaste, opt for low-abrasive types. Consult this chart of toothpaste abrasiveness.
- If you wish to soak retainers in mouthwash, choose one that is alcohol-free to avoid damaging the acrylic.
- If your retainer includes wire, it is stainless steel and won’t be damaged by diluted distilled white vinegar. A dilution of 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water may be helpful in removing mineral build-up.
- Baking soda–you can make a paste by mixing 1 part baking soda with 1 part water. You can also dilute further to create a retainer soak. Baking soda is safe, is a mild abrasive, and will combat odors.