Following treatment with clear teeth aligners, a permanent retainer offers convenience that some patients may prefer over removable retainers. Permanent retainers work in the background, keeping your teeth straight without the need for much attention.

However, one downside of a permanent retainer is its tendency to accumulate plaque and debris. Even a normal brushing routine may not remove the gunk proliferating around the metal retainer wire. Learning how to clean retainers is a key step in your oral health care routine. Here is a guide on removing that pesky debris from your permanent retainer.

1) Start with the basics

Begin by gathering the tools you’ll need. Such materials include a soft-bristled toothbrush, floss, and, if necessary, interdental brushes or a water flosser. Being prepared and having all your tools in one place will make cleaning easier and more streamlined. 

After you’ve gathered your personal armamentarium, rinse out your mouth. This may seem unnecessary since you’ll be rinsing your mouth several times during the cleaning process. But think of it like doing dirty dishes. Sure, the dishwasher will clean most of the plate – but it will work much better if you rinse that plate before it goes in.

2) Brush your teeth

Now, it’s time to brush your teeth. Brushing with best practices is extremely important. Brush for at least two minutes, devoting at least 30 seconds to each quadrant of your mouth. Brush the front and back of your teeth thoroughly and pay close attention to the area around the retainer wire. This is where the debris accumulates the most.

Most dentists recommend a soft-bristled toothbrush, especially for people with permanent retainers. Soft-bristled brushes are less harsh and won’t degrade the wire as quickly as a stiff-bristled brush. They are softer on the gums and won’t cause much irritation.

3) Floss

Flossing with a permanent retainer can be a hassle. Fortunately, several products exist to help make the process much easier. Floss threaders, interdental brushes and floss picks can all help, combining to clean those crevices as effectively as normal floss does for people without a permanent retainer. Floss threaders allow you to get around that pesky wire and dig into the deep areas. Then, you can swoop in with interdental brushes and floss picks to finish the job, getting the last little bits out from around the retainer.

Don’t skip flossing – it’s extremely important. Teeth aligners cost a lot and you don’t want to start skipping steps during the retainer process. Be sure to look up how to floss with a permanent retainer if you’re unsure.

4) Water flossers

Water flossers do not replace floss but work well as a supplemental cleaning option. These products shoot a jet of pressurized water between the teeth to clean up debris. This not only attacks the gunk and buildup but also acts as a way to rinse the affected areas to give you a deep clean feeling.

5) Maintain regular dental checkups

No matter how well you think you’ve cleaned your teeth, there’s always more to do. The dentist has tools and solutions to clear the debris you can’t see. Everyone should go to the dentist at least twice a year – even those of us with near-perfect oral care routines. 

The dentist can also give you an honest assessment of your cleaning habits. In your eyes, your routine may be flawless, but the dentist should have the final word on its efficacy.

Bottom line

Permanent retainers allow patients to keep their straight smiles without worrying about too much work. The retainer works its magic while you go about your day, almost oblivious to its existence. But don’t totally forget about it! That retainer is a haven for plaque and debris, a home for bacteria and unwanted gunk to take refuge. Focused, intense cleaning is required to clean that area. Be consistent and vigilant. These good habits will keep your permanent retainer viable for years to come, and your oral health will only continue to improve.