After using braces to adjust the position of your teeth and having the braces taken off, that’s not quite the end of your orthodontic treatment. Retainers are an important part of the process, too. After repositioning with braces, teeth are susceptible to shifting back out of place. Retainers prevent this from happening, protecting the investment you’ve made in your smile.
There are three basic types of retainers. Two are removable (here’s information about caring for removable retainers, if that’s what you were looking for) and the other is know as fixed or permanent retainers. These are thin wires that are bonded to the back of some of the front teeth.
Just like you had to learn about caring for braces and your teeth while wearing them, you also have to learn about caring for fixed retainers. They create extra opportunity for food, plaque, and other buildup to accumulate on your teeth, which can cause cavities, bad breath, and other oral health problems.
Your orthodontist will walk you through caring for fixed retainers when you have them put in. Below are the key points, in case you need to brush up.
Fixed Retainer Care
- Follow all of the retainer care and cleaning instructions you get from your orthodontist. This will include directions for brushing and flossing the permanent retainer.
- Take extra care to ensure you brush your teeth around the retainer at an appropriate angle. Be thorough, but not so rough that you risk damaging the wire.
- Use a floss threader and floss in an up-and-down motion when you get the floss under the retainer wire. Your orthodontist will give you detailed instructions on this process.
- Floss between the wire and each tooth that has the permanent retainer attached to it.
- A water flosser (like a Waterpik) is an effective alternative to flossing with a floss threader.
- Continue to avoid many of the same foods you shouldn’t eat when wearing braces. Foods that are sticky or very hard can damage a fixed retainer. Also, small, hard pieces like seeds can get lodged between the wire of a fixed retainer and your teeth.
- More frequent dental cleanings (about once every 3 months) are recommended when you have a fixed retainer.
- Contact your orthodontist promptly if there’s a problem with your fixed retainer (it’s broken, causing discomfort or pain, etc.).