Your braces are off and your dentist hands you your new Essix retainer. They tell you to wear this retainer for 20 to 22 hours a day, only taking it out to eat or drink. That sounds easy at first, but as you enter your first week, you realize that taking your retainer out every time you want a snack, or a sip of coffee, becomes a real pain in the butt. Your retainer fits snug to your teeth so eating and drinking while wearing an Essix retainer shouldn’t be a problem, right? The answer, unfortunately, is no! While you may physically be able to eat and drink with your retainer in place, doing so puts your retainer and your teeth at risk.
The Force of Chewing Can Damage Your Retainer
Think about what happens when you eat. Your jaw muscles work to bring your teeth into contact with the food in order to break it up into small enough pieces to swallow. In doing this, your jaw exerts an average force of 70 pounds per square inch. That’s some serious force!! Now, just imagine if your retainer were in your mouth. While Essix retainers are made of relatively strong material, they are not constructed to withstand this kind of force. While your retainer may fit snug against your teeth and may stay in place during chewing, they are not made to undergo that force. Wearing your Essix retainer while eating may cause damage to your retainer.
So, you can see how chewing could damage your retainer, but surely drinking would be okay right? There is no force on your retainer when you take a sip of coffee or Coke, right? While this is correct, drinking beverages (other than water) while wearing an Essix retainer poses other problems. You may already know that beverages, such as coffee, tea, and red wine, can cause stains to appear on your teeth. They can also stain your Essix retainer, causing discoloration. One benefit of Essix retainers is that they are clear, making them relatively unnoticeable to others. Regularly drinking these beverages while wearing your retainer can cause severe discoloration that is unable to be removed.
In addition, drinking hot beverages, such as coffee and tea, can actually harm your retainer. Hot temperatures can affect the integrity of the retainer material, causing it to soften and lose shape. If it loses shape and no longer fits snugly, it won’t work to keep your teeth in place.
Eating and Drinking with a Retainer Can Increase the Risk of Cavities
Because Essix retainers fit so snugly against your teeth, there is already an increased risk of plaque and cavities when good oral hygiene and retainer care practices are not followed. Eating and drinking while wearing your retainer increases the risk that sugars, bacteria, and food particles will become trapped within the retainer. When this occurs, your risk of dental plaque, cavities, and even gum disease increases. This is also one of the reasons why you are instructed to brush your teeth after eating and before replacing your retainer.
To learn more about Essix retainers, cavities, and the importance of good retainer care, read our blog “Cavities: Why Cleaning Your Essix Retainer Is Important.”
Simply Remove Your Essix Retainer When Eating and Drinking
While it may seem like a nuisance, taking your Essix retainer our before eating and drinking are essential. It helps extend the like of your retainer while also helping to reduce the risk of cavities. Simply remove your retainer before you eat (making sure to put it safely in its case) and enjoy your meal. After eating, brush your teeth and replace your retainer. It’s important to note that with proper care, most retainers will last for 2 years before you need a replacement.