Clear retainers, technically known as Essix retainers and sometimes referred to as Invisalign retainers, are made of smooth, clear, BPA-free plastic. The custom, removable appliance slips over your teeth and most people won’t notice you’re wearing it.
Though your standard Hawley retainer made of acrylic and wire is effective, clear retainers have definitely become the more popular option with our Alaska, Bothell, Monroe and Mill Creek Invisalign® and braces patients. Yet, in spite of their prevalence, patients still occasionally have questions. Are clear retainers more expensive? Can you chew gum with a clear retainer? How do you clean an Invisalign retainer?
To help give you answers, as well as highlight some of the benefits of clear retainers, the team at Richard Chan Orthodontics is sharing seven things to know about these appliances.
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Clear Retainers Prevent Teeth from Shifting After Braces or Invisalign Treatment.
Braces and Invisalign rely on a natural process known as bone remodeling to move your teeth. Your appliance exerts a gentle force, which causes the supporting bone and tissues to break down, allowing the teeth to move where they’re directed. However, this also means the teeth have a tendency to shift back to their old places after braces or Invisalign treatment.
The only way to prevent teeth from shifting after braces or Invisalign is to wear a retainer. Your retainer will hold the teeth in place as new bone forms around the teeth and the ligaments tighten back up to secure the teeth in place. Your retainer essentially locks in your bite. Clear retainers are super effective at preventing the teeth from shifting and are a great option for helping you maintain your amazing braces or Invisalign results when you finish treatment.
Clear retainers are smooth and custom-molded for a perfect fit. They slip over your teeth and are extremely comfortable. While all of the different types of retainers are comfortable once you acclimate, many patients find it’s easiest to adapt to wearing a clear retainer.
Clear Retainers are Very Similar to Invisalign Aligners.
Clear retainers fit over your teeth just like Invisalign aligners and are also made of a virtually invisible, thermoplastic material. In fact, there is an Invisalign retainer, called a Vivera® retainer, made by the company that makes Invisalign. The difference is that the retainer material is thicker and meant to last for years, while aligners are designed to last for a few weeks.
Your clear retainer or Invisalign retainer is passive and will hold your teeth in place instead of being designed to achieve pre-programmed tooth movements. Since most patients will quickly transition to just using their retainer at bedtime, wearing your clear retainer will be like only wearing your Invisalign overnight. You’ll enjoy similar benefits such as comfort, convenience and aesthetics.
You’ll Want to Take Your Retainer Out Before Eating or Drinking.
Eating or drinking with a clear retainer in your mouth isn’t a great idea. First, any hot beverages or food can warp the plastic, which will affect the fit and can lead to your teeth shifting. Also, when you eat or drink with clear retainers in, food and liquids can get trapped between your retainer and your teeth, which makes you more susceptible to cavities and staining (both stains on your teeth and discolored retainers).
Okay, we’ve covered food and drinks but can you chew gum with a clear retainer? Yes, you can chew gum with a clear retainer if you take it out first. That’s the simplest solution so you don’t run the risk of the gum sticking to your appliance and causing a mess. Since you’ll likely only wear your retainer at night, it’s easy enough to chew gum during the day when you’re not wearing it.
What about if you wear your clear retainers full-time and you’re an avid gum chewer? Sugarless gum is much less sticky, has a few oral health benefits and some patients swear you can chew gum with a clear retainer mess-free if you stick with brands like Freedent or Biotene. So, if you find that it doesn’t get all over your appliance and the gum doesn’t contain sugar, there’s probably nothing wrong with it.
Clear Retainers are Relatively Affordable.
Are clear retainers more expensive? No, not usually. There is a myth that clear retainers are more expensive than permanent retainers and Hawley retainers but, depending on the brand, most Essix retainers are actually cheaper. Also, since they don’t have components like wires or an acrylic piece that can break, you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged, which would require you to purchase a replacement. That being said, clear retainers are more expensive if you lose them frequently and have to buy new ones on a regular basis, which brings us to our next point about using your retainer case!
Your Retainer Case Will be Your BFF.
Problems with clear retainers are few and far between and for most patients, they’re an amazing choice. That doesn’t mean, however, that problems with clear retainers are non-existent. The main challenge is that because clear retainers are, well, clear, if you put them on a napkin while you eat or leave them on the edge of the sink, they could end up being overlooked and accidentally thrown away. To prevent this, whenever you take your clear retainer out of your mouth, store it in its retainer case.
Knowing How to Clean Clear Retainers Effectively is Key.
Keeping your clear retainers clean is important. As you wear them, spit and plaque will build up on the plastic. Not only will this make them look cloudy and no longer virtually invisible, they’ll also start to smell. Additionally, plaque is made up of bacteria and every time you put your dirty clear retainers in your mouth, you’re basically putting extra bacteria in your mouth with them and allowing the plaque to sit against the surface of your teeth.
So, how often should you clean your retainer? If you’re only wearing it at night, clean your retainer once a day, preferably after you take it out and before you put it in its case so that your case doesn’t get smelly too. Then, when you’re ready to pop it back in your mouth at bedtime, it will already be nice and clean. If you wear it during the day, clean it in the morning when you brush your teeth and again before you go to bed. You’ll also want to clean it, or at least rinse it, before you put it back in your mouth after meals or snacks.
Sometimes, people have a few misconceptions about how to clean clear retainers or how to clean Invisalign retainers. When you look up how to clean Invisalign retainers, you’ll probably see mentions of the Invisalign retainer cleaning system with cleaning crystals. Of course, you can absolutely purchase the cleaning crystals and they’ll be effective, but it’s not a requirement and there are more affordable options.
The easiest solution for cleaning clear retainers is to simply brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and then rinse them with lukewarm water. You can also use a mild dish soap. We don’t recommend using toothpaste because it can be abrasive, leading to scratches on the plastic.
You will want to deep clean your retainers at least once a week to get rid of any stubborn plaque deposits and keep them nice and clear. There are several ways to deep clean clear retainers, including:
- Soaking your retainer in a mixture of one part distilled white vinegar and three parts warm water for 15 to 30 minutes. You can also use a cotton swab to get into the nooks and crannies before rinsing.
- Using an ultrasonic cleaning appliance.
- Dropping a denture-cleaning tablet into water and soaking your retainers. This will depend on the brand, so ask us and we’ll let you know if you can safely clean your clear retainers with denture cleaner.
- Making a DIY retainer cleaner with hydrogen peroxide. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a container and deep clean your clear retainers by letting them sit in the solution for 30 minutes and then rinsing them.
Clear retainers are a virtually invisible, comfortable, and convenient way to maintain your new smile after you finish your orthodontic treatment. As you can see, once you get the hang of how to clean clear retainers, and you commit to keeping them in their case when you’re not wearing them, you and your clear retainer will have an excellent relationship.
Whether you’re looking for a custom clear retainer or you’d like to learn more about Invisalign or braces in Bothell, Monroe, Mill Creek or Alaska, schedule a complimentary consultation at Richard Chan Orthodontics today!