After the last Invisalign tray, patients enter the maintenance phase of Invisalign treatment. Without proper maintenance, teeth can shift and become misaligned again, wasting all the time and money invested in acquiring a beautiful smile.
The maintenance phase primarily involves wearing a retainer. Patients must also follow their recommended oral hygiene routine and visit the dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups.
At Burke & Redford Orthodontists, we want our patients to enjoy their beautiful smiles for the rest of their lives. However, this will not happen if patients do not follow post-treatment recommendations. Here is a brief rundown on what to expect after Invisalign treatment ends.
Retainers After Invisalign Treatment: The Key to Maintaining a Beautiful Smile
Retainers are the last piece of the puzzle for keeping the beautiful smile achieved with Invisalign. Dr. Ryan Redford and Dr. Michael Burke will recommend one of three different retainers, depending on a patient’s needs.
- Option 1: Clear Retainer. Also known as an Essix, vacuform, or Invisalign-type retainer, a clear retainer will feel familiar to patients who have undergone Invisalign treatment. These removable retainers are made of clear material and can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing. These retainers last approximately 1 to 2 years.
- Option 2: Hawley Retainer. More durable than clear retainers, Hawley retainers (also known as “traditional retainers”) are made of metal and plastic. They are removable and typically last 2 to 8 years on average.
- Option 3: Bonded Retainer. Also known as “permanent” retainers, a bonded retainer is fixed to the back of teeth using a thin metal wire. Orthodontic adhesive holds the retainer in place. Bonded retainers are typically used only on the lower teeth. Unlike the other two options, these retainers are not removable. However, do not let the term “permanent” fool you. These retainers typically last 4 to 10 years on average.
Whichever retainer the doctors recommend, patients will need to wear it for the rest of their lives if they would like their teeth to remain stable. At first, retainers will be worn all the time. Over time, the amount of time per day the retainer needs to be worn will decrease. Eventually, patients will only need to wear the retainer at night.
Guidelines for Wearing Removable Retainers
As with other orthodontic appliances, retainers come with guidelines for care and maintenance. The advice below pertains to removable retainers—not bonded retainers. However, patients with bonded retainers must carefully clean in and around their retainer to prevent food build-up, which can lead to bacteria and dental issues.
- Remove a retainer when eating and drinking. Patients should remove their retainers whenever they eat and drink to prevent food build-up. Sticky foods can get caught on retainers.
- Rinse a retainer before putting in the mouth. Patients should rinse their retainers before putting it back in their mouths. Also, retainers should be cleaned at least once a day and undergo deep cleaning weekly. (More details on cleaning below.)
- Avoid drinking hot beverages while wearing a retainer. The heat can melt or deform the plastic.
- Wear the retainer as prescribed by the orthodontist. Not wearing a retainer as prescribed is the main reason teeth shift back to their old positions. At first, patients will be instructed to wear their retainers almost all day. Eventually, the retainer will only need to be worn at night.
How To Clean Removable Retainers
Patients should thoroughly clean their retainers every day using the methods described below.
- Rinse or soak the retainer in room temperature water and clean it using foaming hand soap. Then rinse to remove soap. NEVER use hot water to clean a retainer as the heat may affect the retainer’s shape.
- For a deeper clean, use a soft-bristle toothbrush or dental brush to gently scrub the retainer with foaming hand soap or mouthwash. Avoid using toothpaste to clean the retainer. The abrasives in toothpaste can scratch the surface, which might cause bacteria to form. A cotton swab can clean areas that are difficult to reach.
Every week, patients should deep clean their retainers using retainer cleaning tablets. To do this, place a tablet in a cup of room temperature water and insert the retainer. Let it soak for 10 to 20 minutes, rinse, and resume wearing. The cleaner will break down any bacteria on the retainer—keeping it clean and giving it a minty fresh taste.
Over time, white spots may appear on the retainer. If this happens, soak the retainer in one part water and one-part white vinegar for a few minutes and then rinse in room temperature water.
Properly caring for a retainer will help ensure that it lasts a long time. However, if a retainer starts feeling “different” or no longer fits in the mouth, it may be time for a replacement.
Burke & Redford have been providing Southern California residents with braces in Temecula and Lake Elsinore for over 30 years. Give us a call during business hours (951) 699-8011 or fill out the free orthodontic consultation to discuss Invisalign or the most advanced braces we offer at our private practice through the form on our website anytime for an appointment to meet with our orthodontists.