Over 60% of US adults — that’s how many of them suffer from a less-than-perfect bite. What’s more, 15% have bite problems severe enough to affect their mouth functions!
This is why adult orthodontics has become so popular throughout North America. In fact, adults account for 27% of orthodontic patients in the US and Canada.
If you’re one of these people, then you’re likely excited to finally finish your treatment. However, your treatment isn’t really over. You still need retainers which is most effective when worn for a lifetime.
The question now is, how often should you be replacing your dental retainer if you need to wear them for life? Are there any signs that will tell you it’s time for replacements?
We’ll answer all these questions in this post, so be sure to read until the end!
Why You Need to Wear Retainers in the First Place
We call them retainers because that’s exactly what they do — retain the new position of your teeth. One of the top reasons you need retainers is that the teeth have the tendency to move again. Without retainers, they can shift back to their original position.
In the world of dentistry, we call this movement “relapse”. Many factors, such as aging and gum development, can cause this relapse. In adults, the risk for relapse goes up due to the potential of tooth loss and gum disease.
Many studies, such as this one, have established that retainers reduce these risks. That’s why dentists recommend the lifetime wear of retainers.
The good news is, dental retainers come in the removable kind. You do have to wear them for almost the entire day during the first few months after you get your braces removed. After this, your orthodontist may then let you wear them only at night.
Essix retainers are among the most common and popular removable retainers. Studies found that they’re more effective in keeping the teeth in place than other types. In another study, patients reported Essix retainers to be more comfortable to wear.
Now that you know the whys, let’s answer your question, “How often should I replace my retainer?”
Adherence to your orthodontist’s instructions can affect the answer to this question. Retainer upkeep and the brand of the retainer can also affect how often you need replacement. It’s important to note that with proper care, most retainers will last for 2 years before you need a replacement.
As mentioned above, not wearing a dental retainer can result in the teeth moving again. The more a patient deviates from the orthodontist’s instructions, the greater this movement. Over time, this will cause the retainer to no longer fit properly.
This is why you should always wear your retainers as prescribed by your orthodontist. Otherwise, your teeth will go out of their ideal locations. If this happens, your retainers may either become too loose or too tight.
Retainers aren’t designed to move the teeth. As such, wearing them once the teeth have shifted won’t help correct their position. You’d need to replace your retainers once they move a lot or they’ve become too tight.
High-quality Essix retainers are durable and don’t flex as much as other thermoplastics. However, cleaning them with very hot water can still warp their material. Soaking them in mouthwash with a high alcohol content can also damage them.
These damages can force the retainers to go out of shape, resulting in an improper fit. Once this happens, you’d already need to replace them.
The best and simplest way to care for your retainers is to brush them gently with regular toothpaste. Be sure to use only warm water to clean them. You can also soak them in a denture solution for a more thorough cleaning.
The Brand of the Retainers
The brand of your retainer also affects how often you need a dental retainer replacement. For example, the average lifespan of an Essix retainer is six months. However, proper care and maintenance can make it last for a few years.
Other Signs It’s Time for a Dental Retainer Replacement
You also need to new retainers once your old ones develop damage or become smelly. Having too much calcium build-up is also a sign you need to change your dental retainers.
Cracks or Dents in the Retainer
As durable as they are, constantly popping your retainers in and out can wear them out. Cracks and dents in the plastic material are the most common signs of retainer wear.
Once these cracks or dents are big enough, they’ll diminish the strength of your retainers. Weak retainers can no longer provide enough support to keep the teeth in their proper spots.
So, as soon as you see damages to your retainer, order a set of replacement. This sooner you do, the fewer chances your teeth have of relapsing.
Your Retainers Smell Bad
Retainers can develop odors that could be as bad as a “poop-like smell“. This can happen to yours if you fail to clean your retainers properly.
After all, your mouth is home to 700 different types of oral microbes. Bacteria and fungus make up most of these microorganisms. They can transfer to your retainers and once there, cause plaque formation.
The plaque and the odors of the food you eat can all contribute to foul retainer smells. If yours smell bad, it’s time to get a dental retainer replacement.
There’s Too Much Calcium Build-Up
Have you noticed a white or yellowish build-up on your retainers? If so, then that’s tartar, which is a layer of hardened calcium. This forms when you’re unable to get rid of the plaque that forms on your teeth and retainers.
Tartar, whether on the teeth or on the retainers, can irritate the gums. Moreover, it can result in bad breath, gum disease, and tooth loss.
If brushing and soaking in warm water don’t get rid of the tartar on your retainers, it’s best to just order a new set.
Keep Your Dazzling Smile Forever with Timely Dental Retainer Replacements
There you have it, your ultimate guide on how often you should be replacing your dental retainer. After six months is a good rule of thumb to follow, but it could also be sooner, depending on how well you take care of them. What’s important is to get them replaced as soon as they get damaged or when they no longer fit properly.
This way, you can ensure that your retainers do their job of keeping your teeth straight after braces.
Need a new set of dental retainers ASAP? We can help! Order your replacement dental retainers now so you can keep your dazzling smile for life!