Retainer care and use

The big day has come! After months of orthodontic treatment, you finally get those braces removed. You’re ready to flash everyone that beautiful new smile!

You’re ready to walk out of the orthodontist office forever because you’re done, right?

Well, not quite. 

Now that you have that gorgeous new smile, you have to maintain it. Otherwise, you could be right back to having crooked teeth in a matter of months.

That’s where your retainer comes in!

At Hodges Orthodontics, we want you to not only get the smile of your dreams but to keep it. That’s why we include a retainer with your treatment and instruct you on how to use it and care for it.

What is a retainer, why do you need it, and how long will you have to wear it? We can answer those questions and more.

Here’s a little Retainer 101 to get you started.

Why do I need a retainer?

Once the braces or clear aligners are off, you may think it’s smooth sailing with no need for any other treatment. But the first few months after Debond Day (when we remove your braces) are when your teeth are at their most vulnerable for movement.

Your teeth have spent months being moved due to pressure on the teeth, so the jaw can now allow tooth movement more easily. That jaw doesn’t harden back instantly once your braces come off. That means your teeth can still move.

Until your jaw is set again, you run the risk of your teeth moving out of position again. That would mean more time later in braces or clear aligners.

The best way to prevent this is by using your retainer as directed. The type of retainer we will give you is either a Hawley retainer or an Essix retainer. A Hawley retainer is an acrylic and wire appliance that is custom-molded to your mouth. An Essix retainer, or clear retainer, is made completely of plastic and offers a clear low-profile option. Retainers hold your teeth in place, so they don’t move out of position again.

How long do I wear a retainer?

Many people think they can just wear their retainer for a few weeks or months and be done with it.

In truth, you will need to wear a retainer as long as directed by Dr. Hodges. The good news is, you won’t have to wear it day and night like your braces.

The first few months are the most crucial when it comes to wearing your retainer. Your teeth have been moving for months, and they can continue to move unless they’re fixed into place.

Your retainer needs to be worn at least 22 hours a day for the first 3-4 months as your jaw sets and the teeth become more fixed.

You can remove your retainer for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing, but it needs to be in your mouth the rest of the time, including overnight while you sleep.

After the first few months, you should be able to reduce your time wearing the retainer to 12 hours a day. Dr. Hodges will check your progress and make changes to your schedule if you need them.

In addition to the removable retainer we give you, we may put a “permanent” retainer in to assist in maintaining your new smile. These fixed retainers are attached behind your lower front teeth and occasionally behind your top front teeth.

Taking care of your retainer

Retainers may look tough, but they’re more delicate than you think. That’s why it’s essential to take care of your retainer so it doesn’t get damaged.

When we send you home with your retainer, we’ll also give you a storage case. When the retainer isn’t in your mouth, it should be in the storage case.

Why is this so important? Because if your dog or your baby sister gets your retainer, it could end up a messy ball of plastic and wire. That means you would have to replace it.

Because it’s custom-made for your mouth, it takes time to make. That’s time to give your teeth a chance to shift, which you definitely don’t want.

When storing your retainer, make sure you keep it in a safe place, such as in a drawer or someplace high and out of reach of children and pets. Dogs, in particular, are attracted to the scent of your saliva, so they will try to get to the retainer to chew it.

If you want to leave the case at home, you can purchase a travel case from most major retail stores. A travel case is a good idea if you’re out at a restaurant and need to take out your retainer to eat. The last thing you want to do is wrap it in a napkin. It would be all too easy to throw it out accidentally!

Keeping your retainer clean

Your retainer needs to be cleaned often for your oral health and to keep the retainer in good shape.

Rinse your retainer each time before you put it into your mouth and take it out. Once a week, clean it in either baking soda and water, mild dish soap and water, or special cleaning tablets. You can brush the appliance gently with a soft-bristled brush to ensure all the nooks and crannies are clean. Rinse the retainer thoroughly before you reinsert it or store it.

Without regular cleanings, your retainer can become discolored and just downright nasty. So be sure to clean it to keep that healthy smile!

Lost or damaged retainer — Now what?

Let’s face it, Accidents happen. It’s possible to do everything right and still end up with a lost or damaged retainer.

What do you do if that happens?

The first step is to call us right away. Your teeth could show noticeable movement within 2-3 weeks without a retainer, particularly right after your braces are removed. That’s why it’s so important to get a replacement right away.

We will get a replacement for you as soon as possible to keep that beautiful new smile!

If your retainer is damaged, bring it to us right away. We will be able to determine whether we can repair it or whether we will need to order a replacement.

If you still have questions, you can always contact us! We provide orthodontic care and services to patients in the Tupelo, Fulton, and Pontotoc areas of Mississippi. Schedule a consultation and see what Hodges Orthodontics can do for you! Check out our blog!