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I think I’ve found the clear (essix) retainer cleaning solution.

The Q-tip, or cotton swab. 

It can get into the nooks and crannies that my toothbrush can’t, and also won’t scratch.  I soap up the retainer — usually with liquid soap — and then swab away.


OK, my big goal for July, as I start my 5th month with retainers, is to WEAR THEM MORE.

They have been pretty tight, a couple times this past week, when I put them on before going to sleep.

Now that I’m wearing them more:

  • Pro: I can’t snack much.
  • Con: I can’t snack much.

Last weekend, I saw a friend for the first time since she got her braces taken off, a couple of monhts ago.  Both of us were NOT wearing our retainers.


Because we were at a foodie-event, where we knew for sure that we would be nibbling on some really good food.  And that pretty much sums up why for me and my friend, wearing our retainers all the time is pretty challenging.

My friend told me, (preaching to the choir, of course,) “My doctor told me I have to wear them all the time except when I’m eating.  But I love to eat and I’M EATING ALL THE TIME!”

There you go.  Of course, I could flip this whole thing into a diet strategy… the thought has crossed my mind, but hasn’t worked so far.

I wrote about this in yesterday’s post-braces report, but think it’s worth mentioning again.

At my last ortho appointment, I asked one of the technicians if she could sonic clean the retainers; the doctor has mentioned this last time I was there.

“No problem”, she said, and took the retainers. 

When I was ready to leave after about 15 minutes, they were done and looked great!  They use the machine they use to clean their instruments.  I don’t know if all ortho offices will offer this, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Last week I went in to see my orthodontist for a post-treatment debrief.  I had to ask for this; he forgot to do at the last meeting.

It was a chance for me to see my “after” photos.  My doctor on took a few minutes to talk about this, but I usually stick it out for a few more questions.  Remember YOU ARE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE.  You have a right to get your questions answered.

So, we could see from the photos that my cross bite had been fixed.  And that where my teeth had sort of caved in — from my first braces treatment, and my teeth moving — now they are out and aligned.

Here’s what I learned about the post-treatment, retainer period:

  • How much I should wear my retainers: I should wear them enough so that when I put the retainers back in after not wearing them, they are not tight.  I’ve been trying to be aware of this and pay attention to how much time passes; not too successful yet.  But this information was definitely more helpful than “wear them all the time”, which hasn’t been happening for me.
  • How the teeth settle after a while.  I complained that my bite felt weird; the molars don’t seem like they fit.  So when I have the retainers on, everything feels fine.  But when I take them off, it seems like the teeth are too far apart.  Apparently over time — and after this period during which I’m supposed to wear the braces all the time–the teeth will eventually settle in and fit each other.

Oh, also, when I arrived I asked one of the technicians if she could sonic clean the retainers.  “No problem”, she said.  When I left after about 15 minutes, they were done and looked great!  They use the machine they use to clean their instruments.  I don’t know if all ortho offices will offer this, but can’t hurt to ask.

I guess I’m feeling guilty.  And maybe worried.

I haven’t been wearing my retainers all the time like I’m supposed to.  I wear them every night, but I, um, forget to put them back on after breakfast.  So when I do put them on at night, the top one is really tight.

As long as I can get them on at night it’s OK, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the first check up after getting my braces off and starting with my retainers.

It was a short appointment, and now that I think about it, I think something else was supposed to happen.  That is, a review of the before/after photos.  Hmm, I should check on that.  And a reminder to TAKE CHARGE of my own treatment.

Anyway, the only thing that happened was that the doctor adjusted the bottom retainer (Hawley, with wire) so it’s tighter.  Nothing on the top, since it’s an Essex clear retainer.  I’ve been told to wear them all the time for 3 more months, since I said that I can feel tightness — in the upper retainer — when I haven’t had them in for a while.  Next appointment in 6 months!

It’s said that humans have an amazing capacity to forget pain.  Well so it is that month two WITHOUT braces has just flown by.  😉

A few notes to share as I reflect on the past month:

  • Teeth feel:  A reader asked how my teeth feel.  Are they still loose?  Do they hurt?  Do I feel the settling?  That’s a great question; they don’t feel loose to me at all.  So I guess they are settling in.  I do notice that the longer I forget to wear my retainers, the tighter the retainer feels when I put it on.  Which means that my teeth are moving a tiny bit, though imperceptible to me.
  • Chewing: I STILL notice that sometimes I’m not chewing enough, and just kind of mushing-then-swallowing, as I’d done for an year.  Much better for my health/digestion if I chew.  Gotta pay attention. 
  • Wearing the retainers during the day:  I’m still not wearing them as much as I should; I can tell when it’s tight to put on, especially the top clear one, which is very snug.  The bad thing is that if it is a tight fit, it is very difficult to take off.  So it’s important to be prepared to leave it on for a while, otherwise the process of pulling off a tightly-fitting clear retainer can be extremely frustrating.
  • Wearing the retainers at night: Fortunately, I have worn them EVERY night.  Never forgotten them, though a couple of times I almost did but caught myself because I could tell something was missing.
  • Cleaning retainers: Will find out from doctor whether I’m doing this well.  It’s a pain.  But important to do.  I figure I’m doing a good enough job.

I have to admit that I am probably not cleaning my retainers as well as I should.  A bit of guilt here.  So they have some plaque build-up.  I have an appointment will my ortho next week, so I’ll get the scoop.

In the meantime, this is what I do:

  • Try to rinse them each time I take them out.  Sometimes not possible if I’m not near a restroom when I take them out (to eat).
  • Clean the bottom wire retainer by brushing with my toothbrush and toothpaste, at least once a day.
  • Clean the top clear retainer by lightly brushing with my toothbrush–no toothpaste–, or using soap and my fingers, at least once a day.
  • Every 2-3 weeks, soak the retainers for 30 minutes with a Retainer Brite tablet that I got from my ortho office.  This seems to work, but hasn’t taken all the deposits off.
  • I’m considering getting a sonic cleaner, but not sure yet if it’s worth it.

The places that are hardest to clean are the nooks and crannies at the very bottom of the clear retainer.  My brush can’t reach; I’ve tried squeezing in a cotton swab, but that doesn’t quite do it either.

It’s one month since I got my braces off and started to wear my retainers.  As you can imagine, this first month has been a LOT easier than the one with braces.

HOWEVER, I realize now that this phase of the first few months after getting braces off is probably the most crucial for long-term success in this braces process.  After all, if I don’t wear my retainers, I could potentially lose the benefits of those braces.  And let me tell you, it’s pretty easy to forget to keep the retainers on.  With the braces, I had no choice. They were stuck on.  With the retainers, it’s all up to me!

In sum, first month post braces:

  • Eating is such a pleasure!
  • Chewing: Sometimes I don’t chew enough.  After 1 year of not being able to masticate at all–since my teeth didn’t actually meet each other–I had gotten used to mushing and swallowing.  So I’m having to pay attention to chewing!
  • Flossing: The triumph of braces is in creating habits that are extremely cumbersome, that post-braces become such a pleasure that I look forward to it.  Like flossing.  So easy.  So important.
  • Laziness: It’s just as simple as that.  The retainers are just so easy to forget to use.  But I have to get over that!
  • Retainers are kind of gross: I rinse them most of the time when I take them out–unless I’m not by a sink when I take them out.  And try to get the gunk off with brush or hands or cotton swab.  I think I’ll invest in one of those sonic cleaners