How to Floss With a Permanent Retainer

FlossingDoes the term “brace-face” mean anything to you? If it does, then you understand the struggles that so many of us have gone through. Many have summoned the powers of braces and Invisalign to magically turn what was once a busted-up grill into a million-dollar smile. As if adolescence wasn’t an awkward fight on its own, we have to strap brackets and wires to our teeth in the hopes that: number 1 – we come out alive, number 2- there is an endless supply of Doritos and Mt. Dew, and number 3- we land on the other side with perfectly straight-beautiful teeth.

After going through all that young torture, the thought of having your teeth shift, move, or reposition themselves into a wonky way is just plain unbearable. This is when a permanent retainer takes the stage. “Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, your smile savior: the retainer.” A permanent retainer can keep your teeth perfectly aligned after those years spent making them straight and glorious, without the fear that they will move. But, what does this mean for your oral hygiene?

Keeping your permanent retainer clean should be a no-brainer. After all, you mastered the art of keeping jelly beans and sandwich bread out of your braces, this cleaning task should be easy.

There are two types of permanent retainers:

  1. Bonded to each tooth
  2. Bonded at the end of the retainer only (usually to the canines)

Let’s take a look at how to keep each of these permanent retainers clean as part of your dental routine:

Bonded to each tooth

This is by far the hardest one to keep clean, but the most reliable when it comes to keeping your teeth from shifting. The wire is bonded to each tooth by a form of cement, which amplifies the chances of calculus build up. Calculus is the combination of plaque and bacteria. When this goes left uncleaned or treated it can lead to bigger problems, such as decay, tartar, and gingivitis. So, it is extremely important to pay extra attention to this area.

But how? There are three ways to floss this type of retainer:

  • First – Use a Floss Threaders. The loop design allows you to thread your floss and reach in between your retainer. Once your floss is underneath the wire you can maneuver it to remove anything that may be stuck between your teeth, potentially causing bacteria to turn into tooth damaging acid
  • Second – “Superfloss” This could technically be tied with first, since it takes the threadwork out of the equation, but we’ll just leave it as is. One end of this floss is precut with a piece of plastic that is designed to to thread in between permanent retainers. Both are wise choices to ensure your oral hygiene does not fall short
  • Third – Small Brushes or “Picks” – They are simply just as they are named, small brushes that can reach small and hard to get to areas, and picks that can sneak into those tight spots between your teeth and retainer. And, because they are made of plastic and rubber, they pose no threat to your tooth enamel

If you have option number 2: a retainer bonded to the two end teeth at the length of the wire (again, this is usually the canines), your cleaning options are actually much more simple.

Using the “superfloss” allows you to thread the floss between your teeth and around the wire of your retainer. Keep in mind that the wire of your retainer should be cleaned as diligently as your teeth and gums. Bacteria loves a good home and “equipment” within your mouth is a shelter they would love to inhabit. Make sure to floss and brush around the wires each and every day.

Don’t let poor oral hygiene tarnish the journey you went on to achieve your now dazzling smile. Flossing is incredibly important (with or without a retainer), but having a permanent retainer requires a special kind of attention in order to keep your mouth bacteria free. As always, we recommend (require and demand) that you brush twice a day, floss at least once a day, and see us for regular dental visits at least every six months. If you have any questions regarding your permanent retainers or feel as though you may benefit from them, contact our office today.

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