So your braces have been removed and Dr. Thompson has given you a retainer to wear. Here is some information you need to know about retainer wear and care.
The retention phase of treatment is very important. Most people think that when braces are removed that treatment is over. You are only half way through treatment! The reason I say this is that retainers are used to hold the teeth in their new position so that slowly natural forces can take over. The goal is to have a stable occlusion (bite) that will stay in place when natural forces are placed on the teeth. That is the goal.
Teeth will try to move after your braces are removed, so retainers are needed to keep that from occurring. Also retainers are used to slowly allow natural forces to take over. Therefore, retention check visits are very, very important. At a retention visit, Dr. Thompson watches for adverse tooth movement and makes adjustments either to the retainer or to your teeth. Yes, there are times that the tooth size needs to be adjusted. That procedure is called occlusal equilibration or interproximal enamel reduction. More on those topics later. A patient starts by wearing the retainer full time even during sleep. Eventually, Dr. Thompson will wean a patient off of his or her retainer, once he concludes that the retainer is no longer needed.
What is the best way to take care of your retainer?
First off, the best place for a retainer is in your mouth as Dr. Thompson has prescribed. If you don’t have it in your mouth, then keep the retainer in the retainer box given to you. But for the most part, wear your retainer!
Secondly, you need to take your retainer out of your month before eating and during sports. You can’t eat with a retainer in your mouth. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, don’t wear your retainer while eating. Be careful where you place your retainer. If for example, you are eating lunch at the school. Take your retainer box with you and place it in your box. If you wrap the retainer in a paper napkin at lunch time, you may be digging for your retainer in the trash can because you threw it away with your lunch trash. Place the retainer in your retainer box when not in your mouth. Also, don’t place a retainer in your pocket or purse, the wires are easily damaged or bent.
At home, keep the retainer up out of the reach of dogs. Dogs love retainers because after a period of time in your mouth the saliva smell so good to them. Dogs love to quickly chew them up resulting in the need for a new retainer. Remember dogs have a keen sense of smell. Dogs can smell a retainer from a long distance so place the retainer up high out of their reach. They will search and try to get to your retainer.
Don’t let the saliva dry on your retainer. When you take your retainer out of your mouth, rinse it off so that the saliva will be gone. Dried saliva can slowly cake on your retainer and can make your retainer smell over time.
What is that white stuff on my retainer?
All orthodontic retainers and appliances will accumulate plaque, calculus (tarter) and food particles over time just like teeth do. So when you brush your teeth, brush your retainer. Scrub the plastic part really hard, not bending the wires, until the plastic doesn’t feel slicky. It will feel clean when you get all of the debris off of it. You can use your regular toothbrush and toothpaste or you can use a harder bristle brush, like a denture brush, and anti-bacterial soap. If you use soap, rinse it well and remove all the soap off the retainer. It can taster really bad. Once the calculus (tarter) builds up on your retainer, it can only be scraped off at the orthodontic office. Dr. Thompson will clean your retainer on your next visit if needed. Remember, to keep the retainer looking good, clean it everyday and often.
My retainers have been contaminated, how do I disinfect, sanitize them?
If your retainer has been thrown into the trash can, your dog got a hold of it or you dropped it on the floor, you need to disinfect, sanitize it. You can use a small amount of bleach and water (1:9 ratio) to disinfect. You could use anti-bacterial soap and water and scrub, scrub, scrub. But, do not use color mouth wash to disinfect. Colored mouth wash can slowly change the color of your retainer. Never boil your retainer in hot water to disinfect. Boiling a retainer will just cause it to warp and make it useless and a new one will have to be made.
Lastly, when storing your retainer inside the retainer box, you do not need to keep the retainer soaking in water. Let the retainer dry by leaving the lid open. Bacteria can grow inside the retainer box. So, you need to keep the retainer box clean and disinfect it with bleach or soap at least once a month.
We hope this information about retainer care helps you retain that beautiful smile. If you have any questions please email Dr. Joseph Thompson at email@example.com
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