Do you know that your teeth are constantly moving? It’s true! As we age, our teeth will slowly start to shift toward the front of our mouth, even if you once had braces to correct misaligned teeth in your youth. As a result of this natural process, our patients tend to experience overcrowding on those lower front teeth. Permanent retainers are a great way to prevent overcrowding from occurring but can be tricky to clean. With that in mind, today we’ll discuss how to properly clean and maintain your permanent retainer.
What is a Permanent Retainer?
If you ever wore braces (either as a child or an adult), then you likely remember the excitement of finally having all that metal removed from your mouth, only to find out that once the braces were removed that you would have to wear a retainer. Typically you have a choice between wearing a removable retainer or a permanent one, also known as a lingual retainer. Either way, the retainer is designed to stabilize the dental correction such that your teeth do not shift out of alignment, but the lingual retainer will permanently stay on your teeth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Do Permanent Retainers Require Special Attention?
The lingual retainer is a small wire or bar fixed or “glued” to the back of your teeth to prevent your teeth from moving closer together and becoming crooked. Because it attaches to the back of your teeth, it’s not visible, but you will be able to feel it with your tongue. The placement of this wire often makes normal flossing a challenge. For example, if you try to floss these teeth as you normally would, you’ll notice that your floss will hit the wire before completely reaching your gum line.
This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook from flossing this area of your mouth. You must still floss these teeth in order to prevent gum disease and cavities, but you will need to exert a little more effort to get the job done. Fortunately, there are a number of special tools and techniques to help you properly clean and maintain your permanent retainer as well as prevent calculus from building up.
How do you Properly Clean and Maintain a Permanent Retainer?
The exact steps of cleaning and maintaining a permanent retainer are hard to describe in words. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to ask your dental hygienist at your next cleaning for step-by-step instructions. That said, there are a few tools that we really like that seem to do a good job of getting into those difficult to clean areas.
Super Floss is ideal for permanent retainers, braces, bridges, and wide spaces between teeth. One end of the floss thread has a stiffened-end that acts as a threader that can be pulled in between teeth and under that lingual wire. Simple thread it into your bottom teeth, and floss.
Similar to super floss, threaders are like a needle capable of using whatever floss you prefer. Simple stick the threader in between your middle two bottom teeth to thread the floss under that bar and floss away.
Dental picks have a soft “tree-like” synthetic rubber bristle that gently removes plaque, dislodges food, and massages gums. If you really struggle to floss those bottom teeth because of your permanent retainer, we find that dental picks are often the easiest way to prevent calculus build-up.
Another option to properly clean and maintain your permanent retainer is to use a water flosser (also known as a water pick). Regular use of a water flosser can help you remove plaque and food that gets stuck between teeth. If you choose to go this route, we suggest using one that has adjustable modes (soft, normal, pulse, etc). Overuse or too much intensity can cause unnecessary damage to your gum line.
Never Skip a Professional Cleaning!
All of that said, the most important thing to remember with regard to properly cleaning and maintaining your permanent retainer is to schedule semi-annual cleanings with your favorite Raleigh Dentist. These cleanings are necessary to remove any hard bacterial build-up that may have accumulated in-between visits as well as a great time for your dental hygienist to offer assistance on how to clean tricky areas of your mouth. Therefore, do not miss these cleanings!
If you have a permanent retainer and you’re looking for a Raleigh dentist, give Dr. Katherine E. Garrett a call to schedule your appointment. New patients are always welcome, and we are proud to provide dental care for your entire family. Don’t wait until you have a dental emergency, call our office today!