Retainers are orthodontic devices designed to keep the teeth in place after braces or aligner treatments. In many cases, they are removable, helping to keep teeth in place while minimizing the user’s inconvenience.

That said, retainers require the wearer to take good care of them. Otherwise, they may have to pay for repairs or replacements or deal with other negative consequences. This article will discuss how long one has to wear a retainer and cover several do’s and don’ts when taking care of one.

Do: Wear the retainer as long as the orthodontist says to

Patients may need to wear their retainer for a fixed period or for life. They should follow their dentist or orthodontist’s instructions to prevent their teeth from moving out of place.

Do: Clean the retainer regularly

Removable retainers can get dirty over time from saliva and any foreign particles patients may miss while brushing and flossing. This allows for bacteria growth on the retainer.

Retainer wearers can use cool or room-temperature distilled water and baking soda to clean their retainers regularly. Gently scrubbing with a soft brush can also work well. Bringing the retainer to dentist appointments is also a good idea, because the dentist can clean the retainer.

Do: Make sure the retainer is secured

A retainer should sit firmly on the teeth. It shouldn’t flop or move around in any way. So, wearers should double-check that the retainer is firmly in place. If it isn’t, the wearer should gently use their fingers to press down on the retainer. If it still doesn’t fit, the wearer should schedule an appointment with their provider as soon as possible to get it adjusted.

Do: Keep the retainer in its case when not worn

Anyone with a retainer should always keep it in its case when not worn. Leaving it out puts it at risk of being thrown away, or worse, small children or pets getting their hands on it.

Don’t: Bite the retainer into place

Patients should not bite down with their teeth to secure a retainer. This could cause damage. Instead, after handwashing, retainer wearers can use their fingers to gently push their retainer into place on their teeth.

Don’t: Leave the retainer in a hot environment

Retainers are sensitive to heat. They can bend and warp if left in too hot an environment. So, people with retainers should avoid trying to clean the retainer in boiling water or in the dishwasher. Similarly, they should make sure not to leave them in their vehicles on a hot day.

Don’t: Leave the retainer in reach of small children or pets

Avoid leaving retainers anywhere that small children or pets can reach them. The retainer is a major choking hazard for children and pets. It’s a good idea to leave the retainer in its case, and leave the case in a cabinet that’s in an elevated area if possible.

The bottom line

Overall, people with retainers need to wear and clean their retainers diligently. When not worn, the retainer should be kept in its case and away from hot environments, pets, and children. With proper care and cleaning, people can keep their retainers in great condition. This minimizes cost and inconvenience, allowing patients to enjoy life without worrying about their teeth moving out of place.