The journey to straighter teeth doesn’t just end with getting your braces removed. Retainers are an absolute must if you don’t want your teeth to relapse into their crooked state.
Fixed retainers have become quite fashionable with both patients and dentists in recent years. They’re lighter and more comfortable in the mouth, and they can even keep teeth in place 24/7! For those of us who keep forgetting to wear or clean our removable retainers, fixed retainers are a true lifesaver.
That being said, fixed retainers can flop if they aren’t cared for or used responsibly. A 2019 study found that failures with fixed retainers often occurred within the first 6 months of use because of a loss of adhesive, broken retainer wires, and unwanted tooth movements.
These problems don’t happen all on their own, of course. Most cases of retainer failure usually happen because of major mistakes on the patient’s part. Eating too much hard food, forgetting to floss, and neglecting teeth for too long are big screw-ups that many retainer wearers are prone to making. Don’t want to end up with failed fixed retainers? Read up on this quick guide to learn more.
MISTAKE #1: EATING TOO MUCH HARD FOOD
Eating too many nuts, seeds, and overcooked meats doesn’t just cause painful cavities. It also breaks retainer wire and leads to expensive repairs.
Dentists use adhesive to keep both braces and fixed retainers attached to teeth. Many patients are often forced to get repairs or removals ahead of schedule because of adhesive that’s become too weak or too loose to keep metal and teeth bound together. These cases usually happen because of the patient biting and chewing too much hard food directly.
When your teeth bite down on hard objects the resulting force chips away at dental adhesive. As the adhesive becomes smaller and weaker, the retainer loosens and eventually separates from the teeth. Even if a retainer hasn’t fallen out just yet, it can still become too loose to keep teeth in their proper places.
It’s no secret that eating too much hard and sticky food is not great at all for teeth, even more so for first-time and long-time fixed retainer wearers. Biting and chewing on hard food like taco shells and ice damages not only dental adhesive but also the retainer wire itself. The more you bite and chew tough stuff, the weaker and less reliable your retainers become.
The best way to avoid getting an early retainer removal is to lessen the amount of hard and sticky food in your diet. You can also mitigate the harmful effects of some food by cutting them up into smaller pieces. Cooking food in a way that leaves them more soft than tender also helps, especially if you’re a huge fan of tough vegetables and steak.
MISTAKE #2: FORGETTING TO FLOSS
It’s not uncommon for plaque and bacteria to gather right near your fixed retainers. The only way to win the war against these nasties is through proper brushing and flossing. Unfortunately, many of us are more likely to brush than floss every night.
Brushing isn’t enough to prevent the onslaught of periodontal disease. Without daily flossing, your gums become diseased and inflamed from plaque stuck between teeth. Dental calculus formed from plaque and bacteria can even harden and cause further damage to your teeth and gums. The next time you feel too lazy to floss before bed, you might want to try asking yourself this: What do I prefer? Fewer minutes of sleep or months of gingivitis?
Flossing can be a challenge when you’ve got metal on your teeth. But with enough practice and perseverance, you’re sure to become a pro in no time. Here are some important steps to take when flossing with a fixed retainer according to Healthline:
1. Floss your two front bottom teeth using a 6-inch piece of floss and a floss threader. Put one end of the floss between your fingers and the other end inside the threader.
2. Don’t floss between teeth too roughly as this can seriously hurt your gums. Instead, gently floss up and down. Move from the top of teeth down to where the teeth and gums meet.
3. When you need to move on to another set of teeth, gently move the floss up to the top of the teeth then slide it over to the next set. Simply repeat step two when flossing a new set of teeth.
MISTAKE #3: GHOSTING YOUR DENTIST
Your fixed retainers are just as prone to wear and tear as any other gizmo or gadget. Although wearing fixed retainers for a long time isn’t risky for your health, it does increase your need for regular check-ups and proper maintenance.
Routine dental cleaning done every 3 months is vital to preventing plaque and dental calculus. If your retainers are always exposed to a dirty environment, it can become too weak and loose to use. During this procedure, your dentist will also need to check whether your retainer needs to be replaced or repaired.Any problem with broken or loose retainers should be dealt with by your dentist as soon as possible. Ignoring faulty retainers can cause your teeth to relapse and revert back to their crooked state. You shouldn’t also try to fix your retainers yourself as this can make the state of your teeth even worse. Only dentists with specialized equipment and training should be in charge of repairing retainers.