Summer is here, accompanied by backyard barbecues, vacations and summer camp. Along with the fun times is also the tendency to relax from the daily routines we find ourselves accustomed to during the school year. As such, I find a lot of patients coming in with broken and lost retainers during the summer.
When active orthodontic treatment is over, retainers are always necessary to maintain teeth in their new position, ensuring that beautiful, perfect smile endures. Retainers are an equally important if not more important part of orthodontic treatment than the actual braces or Invisalign. Retainers can usually not be repaired if broken and are costly to replace. Here are five important tips for keeping your retainers intact and in your possession this summer (or anytime).
- Use your case.
The most important advice I can give when caring for retainers is to make sure you have a proper retainer case and you use it. Unless they are run over by a car (an excuse I have actually been given before), your retainers will always remain safe in their case. Ask your orthodontist for an extra case so you are never without one. Also, a great idea is to put your name and phone number on the retainer case if it is left somewhere so it can be returned to you.
- Never wrap them in a napkin … or paper towel … or tissue.
One of the most common stories I hear from patients is that they wrapped their retainers in a napkin when they were eating, and they got thrown in the garbage. If you do not want to spend your time searching through a garbage can, it is a best practice to always put them in the retainer case when you sit down to eat.
- Keep them away from dogs (and babies).
“My dog ate my retainer.” This is truly a common statement I hear in my practice. Dogs do in fact love retainers. Why? They are made of acrylic or plastic and smell like their owner’s saliva! They make a very expensive doggie chew toy, so always keep them high up and out of the way when you are a dog owner. On a similar note, babies and toddlers also have an affinity for retainers. They can get chewed on or disappear altogether at the hands of a busy little one, so keep them secure when you have one in the house.
- No flipping.
What do I mean by this? Kids often tend to play with or flip their retainers up and down with their tongue in their mouth if they become a bit loose. This can cause them to become even more loose and to inadvertently be bitten and subsequently broken — or even fall out of their mouth. Keep them in place in your mouth, and if they are very loose, make sure to see your orthodontist to tighten them.
- Wear them!
The safest place for your retainers is in your mouth! When active orthodontic treatment is complete and you begin orthodontic wear, the retainers should be worn full time and only removed for eating and brushing. And if they are kept in the case during the times not in the mouth, then they will not have the opportunity to be broken or lost.