After treatment with clear aligners, it’s easy to forget about the permanent retainer fused to the back of your teeth. In many ways, the entire purpose of permanent retainers for teeth is to work in the background. While you enjoy your daily life, your retainer keeps your smile straight and beautiful noninvasively.

But don’t forget about your permanent retainer when brushing. Like any tool or device, a retainer requires constant maintenance to ensure it functions optimally. You can take steps to brush smarter to protect your retainer and save yourself from substantial problems later on. Read about the best ways to brush with a permanent retainer. 

Choose a good toothbrush

Toothbrushes are not all created equal, especially when it comes to brushing with a permanent retainer. Investing in a soft-bristled toothbrush that is less harsh on both your teeth and the retainer wire may be wise. A hard-bristled brush could degrade the wire while also irritating your gums. Most dentists recommend soft-bristled toothbrushes.

An electric toothbrush may also be helpful. Powered brushes can get into the nooks and crannies more effectively than manual brushes. And most of these brushes come with soft bristles since the vibration and rotation tend to add extra pressure to the teeth.

Pick the right toothpaste

Similar to toothbrushes, there are big differences in toothpaste that could be important for retainer care. Use toothpaste with fluoride, and don’t put too much stock in products focused on teeth whitening. Make sure your toothpaste doesn’t have harsh chemicals that could degrade the metal wire. Most toothpaste options at your local drugstore will work for basic brushing with a permanent retainer. 

Follow brushing best practices

Picking the right toothbrush and toothpaste is only the first step. None of it matters if you don’t brush correctly. At baseline, brush twice per day and follow the two-minute brushing schedule. Divide your mouth into quadrants, focusing on each for at least 30 seconds. Brush the front of your teeth and pay close attention to the gum line. Giving the gums a good brush is especially crucial because plaque can quickly accumulate around the retainer wire and near the gums. Thoroughly brush the front and back of the teeth and don’t skimp on time. It’s only two minutes. You can do anything for two minutes. Keep in mind how much invisible aligners cost – don’t waste it!

Clean along the retainer wire

Don’t forget the importance of cleaning the retainer wire itself. Avoid casually brushing over it and acting as though that is good enough. If anything, add an extra 15 seconds per quadrant to focus specifically on the retainer wire. The wire is an easy home for particles, debris and plaque. Carefully, with intention, move the toothbrush’s bristles along the wire up and down.

Remember what comes next

Brushing is only one part of the oral care equation. Consider a non-abrasive mouthwash to give your mouth a deep cleansing after brushing. A product with fewer harsh ingredients is preferable, as you don’t want to harm the metal wire. 

Make sure to floss consistently with floss threaders or water flossers. Flossing with a permanent retainer is more involved but no less important. Learn how to floss with a permanent retainer and practice using your preferred flossing method to make it easier to do.

Finally, go to the dentist every six months. No matter how well you take care of your teeth and your permanent retainer, you’ll likely never be able to get them cleaner than what a dentist can offer you in the office. The dentist can also advise and tell you whether you need to change your oral health care routine. 

Bottom line

Brushing with a permanent retainer is more complex than brushing without one, but doing it correctly and consistently is worth it. You only have one set of teeth, and it takes a lot of work to keep that temple in order. Brushing well with a retainer is especially key. Poor habits can cause the metal wire to fall apart, costing you more time and money down the road. Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to the healthiest mouth possible.