When your braces are removed, you will be fitted for a retainer. Retainers help your teeth stay in place and not reverse all the hard work to make them healthy and pretty. However, retainers can wear down with so much use. Since they’re small, retainers are often lost as well. We’ve compiled a collection of tips on cleaning, maintaining, and not losing your retainer!

Remove your retainer when eating & drinkingbreakfast

The process of chewing wears down your retainer, and rougher foods are likely to scratch, bend, or break it. In addition, food is likely to get stuck in your retainer, leading to plaque and cavities. Instead, remove your retainer before eating, brush or rinse your mouth after the meal, and replace your retainer.

Drinks can break down your retainer as well — soda and coffee stain it and the acidity weakens the retainer, leading to expensive breaks or cracks. Water is fine, but remove your retainer before drinking anything colored or sugary.

Remove your retainer carefully

When you take out your retainer, do so gently, pulling evenly on both sides and taking care not to bend it. Although retainers are somewhat flexible, they are also easily cracked or broken. The same goes for putting it back in — place it on your teeth gently and evenly, taking care not to chomp down. Your teeth are stronger than the retainer!

Always keep your retainer in its case

Never place your retainer on a napkin!

Never place your retainer on a napkin!

Your retainer will come in a sturdy plastic case. If the retainer is not in your mouth, it should be in the case, which protects your retainer from being lost, broken, or contaminated. Meals are a particularly important time for using the case — many a retainer has been thrown away with a napkin, leading to searches through trash cans and expensive replacements. Keeping your retainer in a case also protects it from being squished, stepped on, chewed on by pets, or stolen by little siblings.

Adding your name, address, and phone number to your case makes it easier to find if you do lose it. Labels can be easily printed or filled out and should be covered with tape to make them water-proof.

Clean it every day

You should brush your retainer with toothpaste every day to prevent plaque, deterioration, and smell. When brushing, avoid bending your retainer, as it can crack or snap. Be sure to clean your case on a regular basis as well.

Avoid hot conditions

Your retainer can melt, so don’t microwave it, put it in the dishwasher, washer, or dryer, leave it in a hot car, or leave it in direct sunlight. If you are a fire-breather, your retainer should be removed before performing. If your retainer melts partially or softens, it may lose shape. If you think it may have changed, schedule an appointment to have your retainer checked or refitted.

By following these tips, you should be able to keep your retainer strong for a long time! In return, the retainer will keep your teeth as straight as the day your braces came off.

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Photo credit: Brown Crumpled Napkin via photopin (license)