Anyone who has the pleasure of getting braces will also need to get used to wearing and cleaning a retainer when their braces come off. While braces do the work of moving your teeth to correct bite and spacing issues, the important thing is getting them to stay in place once they’ve reached the right spot.

There are two different types of retainers that you may end up with, and each needs to be kept clean and in good shape so your teeth can stay in place and your mouth can stay healthy.

Removable

Hawley retainers and clear plastic retainers are both removable, but if you have one of these, it doesn’t mean you can be lax about keeping it in your mouth. You definitely want to remove it while you eat and brush your teeth so it doesn’t get damaged, but consistency is the key to keeping your teeth in place after the hard work of braces.

To keep your teeth and mouth healthy, you’ll also need to regularly clean your retainer. Without brushing your retainer with toothpaste or soaking it in an appropriate cleaning solution, you risk the growth of bacteria as well as the buildup of plaque and tartar that go right back into your mouth.

You always want to take care of your retainer when it’s not in your mouth to keep it from being damaged, broken, or exposed to harmful germs.

Permanent

While removable retainers have pieces on both sides of your teeth, fixed retainers–also known as bonded or permanent retainers–fit only on the backside. These have the great benefit of never having to be removed, meaning you can’t lose them and are much less likely to damage them.

However, because they are affixed to your teeth in a similar fashion to braces, you’ll still need to pay special attention when you’re brushing your teeth. Flossing is especially important because, left alone, your gums are more likely to become swollen, leading to gum disease.

It may be tempting to skip flossing because of the extra work of threading it through your retainer, but this is an important part of keeping your gums and retainer clean and healthy.

Your Smile

The dentist and dental hygienists that care for your teeth can also help you learn the best way to care for your retainer so you can keep being proud of that smile. If your retainer becomes damaged in any way, let your dentist know as well so they can correct it.

A retainer will need to be worn for at least a year, but a fixed one can be with you indefinitely; you may find that annoying, but remember that it’s all about keeping your mouth healthy and your smile straight and beautiful.