Ladera Ranch, CA – The day braces come off is a day to celebrate! Orthodontic patients put in a lot of work during their time wearing braces, but the day they come off doesn’t mean the work is over. To ensure that beautiful smile stays that way, it’s important to wear a retainer. The good news is there are great options that won’t make you stand out from the crowd. And if you follow your orthodontist’s instructions, your teeth will continue to look as great as they did the day you had your braces removed.
The most common types of retainers used today are the clear retainers and semi-permanent lingual retainers (retainers bonded to the teeth on the tongue side). Hawley retainers are not used very often these days. Those are the ones most people think about when they say “retainer”- it has a piece of acrylic that goes over the palate or behind the lower teeth with a wire that extends over the teeth to help them retain their locations. Most patients don’t like Hawley retainers because you can see the wire and the acrylic by the palate may cause some patients to gag. While all the retainers do a great job at retaining the teeth, which you choose may come down to whether you want a more cosmetically appealing option or not.
No matter which retainer you choose, there are some things you’ll need to know to take proper care of it.
- Keep your retainer away from heat. That means don’t leave it in a hot car, or accidentally put it in the dryer, or soak it in hot water. Heat can damage the retainer, altering the way it fits over the teeth. If the retainer gets deformed in any way, it may not retain the teeth as it should.
- Always put your retainer in the provided storage case when it isn’t in the mouth. When you take your retainer out, always put it in your storage case to keep it safe, otherwise it may be accidentally thrown away. We’ve had many patients over the years who have wrapped their retainers in a napkin or paper towel while eating, only to forget about it and it ends up in the trash.
- Wear the retainer!!! It can’t do its job if it isn’t in the mouth, so be sure you wear it exactly as your orthodontist tells you. In the beginning, that will probably mean wearing it all day and night, only taking it out to eat and brush your teeth. Over time, however, you may only need to wear your retainer at night only. Drs. Gire and Salmassian will tell you when you are ready to switch to a different wear schedule.
- Clean your retainer. Plaque and bacteria can build up on your retainer, and can make it smelly and lead to problems in your mouth. You can gently brush your retainer with soap (like a pump-soap or dishwashing soap), or you can use a denture cleaner or retainer cleaner to soak it in. Always brush it well and rinse it off with water before placing it back in your mouth.
- Keep your retainer out of the reach of pets. More than one dog has gotten a hold of a retainer over the years and chewed it beyond recognition!
In addition to caring for your retainer, there are some other things your team at Ladera Orthodontics will go over with you as well.
You’ll notice in the first few days of wearing your retainer it may feel like your mouth has created more saliva. That’s normal – your mouth is responding to the retainer in your mouth as if it is food, and generating more saliva to help you. It should only take a few days for that to regulate.
You may also notice that the retainer alters your speech slightly. This is both due to the increased saliva production and the invasion of your tongue space. Practice speaking with the retainer in so your tongue can adjust and your speech will be back to normal in no time.
If you don’t wear your retainer for a couple of days, you may notice that it feels extra snug when you put it back on. That’s because your teeth may have shifted just slightly enough to make the retainer feel more snug. It will also be a reminder to wear your retainer all the time. It may feel uncomfortable at first but your mouth will adjust – deciding to skip wearing it all together will make your teeth shift even more.
Be sure you bring your retainer with you to all your follow-up visits so Dr. Gire and Dr. Salmassian can check the fit and be sure it hasn’t been damaged in any way.
If you have questions about retainers, or would like to learn more about how retainers help ensure smiles stay beautifully straight, call Ladera Orthodontics at 949-272-8782.