Top 5 Questions to Ask When Getting a Retainer

A dentist is chatting and laughing with mom and child

Are you finally done with orthodontic treatment, beaming with the beautiful smile you've dreamt of, and now learning that you get to sport a retainer? Don't fret! It's nothing to fear. A retainer is going to help you keep that smile you've worked hard for over the past few years. There are two types of retainers, fixed and removable, and your dentist or orthodontist will help you figure out which is best for your needs and lifestyle. It's always a good idea to go in ready to ask questions, so here are a few to get you started:

  1. Why do I need a retainer?
    There are a couple of reasons you will follow up with a retainer after your braces are removed. Mainly, it prevents the teeth from moving back into their old positions. The soft tissue and bone of the jaw need time to readjust to your new teeth positioning — and your new bite — and the retainer allows for that.
  2. What will happen if I stop wearing my retainer?
    You risk treatment reversal if you stop wearing your retainer against the advice of your dentist or orthodontist. Don't let your teeth shift back into unwanted positions — wear your retainer!
  3. Do I have to wear a retainer forever?
    While the timeframe varies for each person, you can expect to wear your retainer 24/7 for at least the first three months (aside from when you're eating or brushing), but it could be up to 12 months. After that, many people wear their retainers every night for years, up to every other night for the rest of your life. You've invested in your beautiful smile — it's worth it!
  4. How do I clean my retainer?
    Just like on your teeth, bacteria, plaque and tartar can build up on your retainer, and putting on a dirty retainer is like applying a layer of bacteria straight to your teeth — yuck! The first step in keeping your retainer clean is maintaining a healthy oral care routine: brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss regularly and use mouthwash as needed. Next, make sure to care for your retainer daily, depending on the type of retainer and instructions provided by your dentist, likely soaking it or brushing it lightly.
  5. Are retainers uncomfortable?
    The first week might be a little annoying, but it will get better! It will take some time to get used to your new retainer, and it may feel uncomfortable for a few days. You also might notice an increase in saliva production at first, making it a little harder to talk. You can practice speaking in front of a mirror or reading out loud to adjust. However, your retainer shouldn't be painful after the first five days or so. If it is, contact your dentist or orthodontist to see if it's fitting properly.

Always remember that your dental care team is around to answer questions as you think of them. Whether your retainer starts fitting differently, you lose it and need a new one, or just want to schedule an extra cleaning to make sure you're taking extra good care of your teeth, never hesitate to give them a call!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  • Swish with water before brushing – instruct your child to rinse with water after eating. This will loosen food that may be caught in the braces, then brush thoroughly.
  • Floss once a day – each night help your child floss. Flossing helps loosen food debris and plaque at and under the gum line that would otherwise harden into tartar. It can also help reach the nooks and crannies in the teeth that might be difficult to reach with a toothbrush.
  • Use a fluoride rinse – after brushing and before bed have your child rinse with fluoride rinse to help keep teeth strong and healthy
  • Dental visits every six months – take your child to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months. The dentist can point out areas that need more attention, and help make sure you're keeping your child’s teeth healthy and clean.