Tips for Flossing Your Permanent Retainer

March 10, 2015

Tips for Flossing your permanent retainer
Permanent retainers are often installed after braces or Invisalign to keep the teeth aligned after treatment has been completed. Permanent or bonded retainers are attached to the back of teeth to keep aligned without the visibility of removable retainers. While bonded retainers can look like braces, they’re much smaller because they don’t have brackets and they don’t need to be tightened.
The inside of a mouth that has a permanent bonded retainer.

These retainers are convenient and can require less maintenance, but it is still extremely important to keep clean. They can also accumulate plaque and require more care when brushing and, in particular, flossing. Cleaning your permanent retainers is much like caring for your braces.

Here are some tips on how to correctly floss with a permanent retainer.

Use Floss Threaders

Floss threaders are small plastic needles that are used to help direct floss through the teeth and under the retainer wire. Using these significantly eases the flossing process and makes it possible to move the floss up and down to remove plaque. We provide floss threaders when you start braces or first get a permanent retainer.

Here’s how to use a floss threader:

  1. Put a piece of floss through the hole of the threader leaving an end with five or six inches.
  2. Push the needle piece of the threader in one of the gaps between your bottom teeth.
  3. Pull the needle through the gap underneath the permanent retainer’s wire.
  4. Move the floss between your teeth up and down and pull the floss completely through the gap.
  5. Repeat this process for each gap that your permanent retainer covers.
  6. You will have to re-thread the floss between every two teeth bonded by the retainer.

When you run out of floss threaders, you can purchase your own or ask your dentist or orthodontist for more.

Make Your Own Threader

If you don’t have any pre-made floss threaders on hand, you can create your own. This technique only works with permanent retainers bonded to the two end teeth since you will be able to more efficiently move the floss around. Here is a quick rundown:

  1. Make a loop in the floss 5-6 inches from the end.
  2. Pull the loop over the lower front teeth with the two ends hanging out of your mouth.
  3. Holding both ends, pull down until the loop snaps under the retainer, behind the teeth.
  4. Release one end of floss and pull the other end until it comes out of the space between the teeth and under the wire.
  5. With the floss under the wire, you can easily move the floss along the sides of the adjacent teeth to effectively clean the teeth.
  6. Pull the floss by one end to remove it.
  7. Repeat this process for all the teeth supported by the permanent retainer.

If your permanent retainer is attached to each tooth, this method doesn’t work, but you can still use a floss pick to get between your teeth while waiting on new floss threaders.

Use a Water Flosser

If you want an easy way to floss your teeth, a water flosser can get in between your teeth without using floss. A water flosser is a specialized tool that shoots a jet of water between your teeth. All you have to do is aim the water between your teeth and it will remove food and plaque for you!

When choosing a water flosser, make sure you find one that’s been given the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval for the best results.

Use a Dental Pick

If you can’t fit the threader through the gap, you can use a flossing pick to continue flossing and work toward getting the thread through the gap.

While a dental pick shouldn’t substitute a floss threader, there are a variety of dental picks that can be used to effectively remove food from between your teeth. Some come with floss, while others are essentially a small brush. Whichever option you choose, make sure you don’t actually use toothpicks to floss between your teeth.

Helpful Tips

Here are a few other tips you can follow to keep your permanent retainer clean:

  • When using a floss threader, move the floss up and down, hugging the sides of each tooth. Getting the floss through the gap is the first step, but getting all the stuck food particles from between each gap is more important.
  • Floss every day. While this may sound cliche, the best way to take care of your teeth is consistency.
  • Drink water. Water can wash away some food particles. While it’s no replacement for flossing, it can keep your mouth cleaner and your breath fresher.

A red-headed woman drinking water.

What Should I Do If I Break My Permanent Retainer?

Sometimes flossing your permanent retainer as directed can lead to a broken wire. If that happens, the short answer is to call your orthodontist to schedule an appointment, but you can get the full scoop of what to do in our blog.

Are You Looking for Orthodontic Treatment?

If you want straighter teeth, consider coming to Smile Ranch Orthodontics for a free consultation! We are happy to walk through all of our treatment options, whether you’re looking for traditional braces or Invisalign.

If you’ve already had orthodontic treatment, but need a new retainer or want to get your teeth back to how they were after your first treatment, we do that too! Contact us to set your appointment.

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