Retainer Care 101: Maintenance for a Beautiful Smile

Posted on October 10, 2023 | First Time

Retainer Care 101: Maintenance for a Beautiful Smile

The orthodontist has helped straighten your child’s smile, and now that the teeth are straight they will be straight forever… Right

We’ve all been through enough to know that nothing is that easy. Just like all great things in life, oral hygiene takes maintenance. 

The good news is that it is possible to maintain the orthodontic work that’s been done—as long as your child continues to care for and wear their retainer. That’s why we’ve put together some tips that will help you help them through the epilogue of braces or invisalign. 

Listen to the Orthodontist

Some teeth are more likely to shift than others. Factors such as gum strength, ligament development, and overcrowding can impact how often a retainer needs to be worn. If the orthodontist says it should only be worn at night, don’t encourage your child to wear it during the day or it can wear out faster. If the orthodontist says to wear it all the time, encourage them to wear it all the time. If their teeth move too much the retainer can hurt when it’s put back in.

Establish Routines

The key to remembering a retainer is to incorporate it into a typical routine. When it’s required full-time, they should learn to clean and replace it after every meal. If they are supposed to wear their retainer only at night, teach your child that it should be paired with something they already do before bed—brushing their teeth being the chief example.

Keep it Clean

Proper oral care means more than simply wearing the retainer—keeping it fresh is just as important. 

If retainers aren’t properly cleaned it can result in bacteria buildup and worsen oral hygiene by trapping food debris. Teach your child to lightly brush the retainer with cool or lukewarm water whenever they get a chance, especially after meals. Use non-abrasive toothpaste or cleaning solutions made specifically for retainers. Harsh chemicals or extremely hot water can cause damage or warp the structure. 

Keep it Safe

Retainers are tough and relatively flexible—but don’t go trying to break them. Children should use the provided case to store the retainer when it’s not being used. The case is easier to find, better for storage, and helps protect the retainer from dangers like extreme heat and curious pets.

As time passes, retainers often need to be repaired for general wear and tear. Minimizing cracks, reducing bacteria buildup, and not losing the retainer altogether (go figure) can save money by prolonging the time before a replacement is needed. 

And remember, the most important retainer rule: do not, we repeat DO NOT wrap your retainer in a napkin during meals. It will get thrown out by accident at some point. Always put it in a safe location-ideally, in the case!

Check-in and Check-up

It’s best to schedule a follow-up appointment for your child as soon as you’re leaving the orthodontist’s office. The next appointment gives the orthodontist a chance to confirm that all is going well with the tooth alignment (and the retainer). If adjustments need to be made to the mold, or directions for wearing the retainer must change, the orthodontist will be able to recognize and address that when your child returns to the office. Remember to bring your retainer to the appointments with you!

Trust the Retainer Process

Perhaps the hardest part about retainers is understanding just how important they are. The ligaments in our mouths are flexible and constantly changing throughout our lives. Even though braces/invisalign might be the less pleasant experience, wearing a retainer afterwards is still just as significant. 

All patients should wear their retainer and are encouraged to ask why if they ever question it. Children, teens, and adults alike often feel like they have more pressing matters to attend to than oral health—and we get it. We might be a little partial as a dentist/orthodontist office, but we truly believe that with a little practice, a lot of knowledge, and a solid routine, oral hygiene can become second nature. And the thought of maintaining a beautiful smile can contribute to happiness instead of stress. 

Our orthodontic team is here to support you every step of the way. Reach out to our professionals at Blossom Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics for questions regarding retainers or post-treatment care. Together, we’ll keep these smiles shining bright!

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