Are you wondering how to best care for your new retainer? Well… congrats! That means you’ve made it to the end of your orthodontics treatment. Researching how to protect your new, fantastic smile (and the equipment that will keep it that way) is the next logical step. Here are some key bits of information to help you keep your retainer in tip-top shape.

Clean Your Retainer

Do you need to clean your retainer? Yes! Rinse and brush your retainer regularly. This will help remove tartar that can build up on the surface. You can soak your retainer in a glass of water with baking soda, or brushing it with a regular toothbrush and toothpaste will do the trick. Avoid any harsh chemicals – bleach or alcohol-based mouthwash is not necessary, and could damage your retainer.

If you don’t wear your retainer regularly (for example, every other night) make sure to store it in a case with some airflow. This will keep your retainer from breeding mold or bacteria.

Always Keep it in a Case

Your retainer likely came with a protective case, so it’s in your best interest to use it. Think of it as literally protecting the investment you made in your amazing smile! Leaving your retainer out in the open is a recipe for attracting germs and dust, which you do not want ending up in your mouth. A case is also a great shield against curious creatures in your household…. Namely children and pets. Kids and pets love playing with things that they shouldn’t, and your retainer’s case might protect it from becoming broken – or worse, a choking hazard!

Remove Before Eating

It’s a good idea to take out your retainer before eating a meal. If you wear it while you eat, it could trap food in your mouth and make your breath smell less than fresh. Always carry your case with you, and place your retainer in it as soon as it’s removed from your mouth. Never wrap it in a napkin or tissue – it would be too easy to forget, and someone else might mistake it for trash!

Remove Before Brushing Your Teeth

Cleaning your teeth and cleaning your retainer should be two separate tasks. If you brush your teeth while wearing your retainer, your toothbrush won’t be able to reach a good portion of your mouth. Remove your retainer, clean it, and then brush and floss your teeth. That’s giving your mouth the attention it deserves!

Time for a Mouthguard

Do you play a sport? Make sure to remove your retainer and place it in its case before getting physical. An injury to your face or mouth while wearing a retainer could be extra painful, and possibly damage the retainer. Instead, use a mouthguard to protect your smile. Just don’t forget to put your retainer back on when you’re done!

Keep it Away from Heat

If your retainer is made from plastic, it is especially important to keep it away from heat. Keeping it off the stovetop is an obvious suggestion, but also consider other situations. Do you keep it on your bathroom counter, perhaps near a curling iron or straightener? Do you sometimes leave it in your car for a sports game or practice? Even a low level of heat can warp the design of your retainer. This would impair its function and its comfort! Take a look at your habits and make any changes to keep your retainer away from heat.

Be gentle!

Retainers are specially designed for your teeth, so when putting them on or removing them, just be gentle. Make sure that it is placed all the way in your mouth and correctly positioned on your teeth. If you feel that you have to force it, resist the urge. Something could be wrong and your dentist should take a look to make sure it’s still in good shape or fits your teeth.

Retainers are a critical part of your orthodontic treatment. Your teeth won’t stay perfectly straight once the initial treatment of braces or Invisalign has been completed. Typically, in the first 18 months after removal your teeth will have a tendency to shift back to their original positions. Shifting is common even in people who haven’t received orthodontic treatment – it’s a natural part of aging. Wearing your retainer will keep your smile looking amazing for a long time… just follow the above tips to keep your retainer in equally great shape!