A Day in the Life While Wearing a Retainer
Ever wondered what it’s really like to wear a retainer? For many people it’s only when they actually start wearing them that they really find out the impact on their daily lives and the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) changes they need to make to their lifestyles.
We spoke to two retainer wearers, Emma and Bethan, and asked them to share their experiences of wearing aligners and retainers. We hope they’ll give you a better idea of what to look out for so that you’re better prepared for your journey ahead.
7AM GOOD MORNING!
Mornings are usually busy times, especially during the work week. If you wear an aligner or retainer then this can add time to your morning, unless you have some smart ways around it. Adapting to the changes in routine is an essential part of getting used to wearing a retainer, something Bethan and Emma know a lot about.
For Emma these changes started first thing in the morning, “I hate bad breath and sometimes when I’d wake up in the mornings, I’d take my aligner out and be quite conscious about cleaning it a lot.” While regular cleaning is key, this can take time and patience. Bethan discovered a way to speed up her morning routine with dental cleaning tablets, like Polident Pro Guard and Retainer cleansers, “For me the struggle was always brushing them fully before putting them back in multiple times a day and that’s what I slacked on. These fizzy dental cleaning tabs were a lifesaver. They saved so much time. You could just give your aligners a quick brush and put them back in and they were clean.”
Emma also found dental cleaning tablets a game changer, but she didn’t learn about them until after she’d finished her aligner treatment, “It wasn’t until I finished treatment that I realized you can get these dental cleaning tablets that you just put into a glass of water and it cleans your aligners for you. I just clean it, shower, have breakfast and then put it back in before leaving the house. It would’ve been a gamechanger if I’d done it earlier.” You can find out more about cleaning your aligner or retainer here and about dental cleaning tablets here.
Whatever you do, don’t rush to clean your retainer or aligner before heading out of the front door to get to work. They’re fragile, as Emma discovered, “I wish people had told me how flimsy they are, I broke two by cleaning them in a rush.”
10 AM MEETINGS! MEETINGS! MEETINGS!
For Emma and Bethan presentations are part of their daily working life. This brings its own challenges as Emma explains, “I used to take my retainer out, but sometimes you forget and you’re in this meeting and you don’t have your case. Now you have to present with your retainer in and you can’t open your mouth properly. You’re quite self-conscious when you’re talking”.
This can be even more daunting when first wearing a retainer as your mouth adjusts. “First couple of weeks was difficult for sure. It was really weird. I hated it when I first started. It really hurt, I couldn’t speak, I had a horrible lisp and was really self-conscious about that” recalled Emma, “the lisp only lasted for less than a week, so not a huge amount of time, but it was so awkward.” For Bethan the initial discomfort was similarly short-lived, “I did have a bit of discomfort, like an aching feeling for maybe 24 hours, but that went away.”
11AM COFFEE O’CLOCK
As Emma discovered, some of the things you take for granted when not wearing a retainer, require a little more attention, like a mid-morning pick-me-up, “At about 11 o’clock I’d have a coffee or tea or something like that and drink it out of a straw. Sometimes I’d have a snack at the cafeteria, but again I’d have to go to the restroom and take out my retainer. You also have to avoid certain foods that stain your teeth. I’m not a massive coffee drinker, but I did find I’d have to restrict my caffeine consumption”.
When eating out, the potential for embarrassment can be high. This can make mealtimes one of the most stressful moments for a retainer wearer, “I think it’s disgusting to take it out in front of people, so you have to go to the restroom and then come back. They get dribble and it’s all kind of gross” remarked Emma. Planning when to take out your retainer, locating a restroom, deciding when and where to clean it, while also deciding what you’ll eat, talk about with your colleagues or boss and remembering to have a good time can be a bit of a tall order. “It’s very awkward, you do have to be quite organized when you want to eat, which is not very me.” she continued, “While everyone’s getting food, you’d have to find a restroom. Sometimes you couldn’t so you just have to look away to take out your retainer”.
Cleaning your aligner or retainer outside your own home can mean having to be a bit thick skinned, “It is a bit embarrassing, I won’t lie. You have to find a time when less people are in the restroom, because you don’t want to be seeing people you kind of know, like colleagues, while brushing your teeth. It’s quite strange” Emma recalls. On the other hand, Bethan found a more direct approach suited her, “I would just say it straight out, quite openly and candidly, ‘I need to go to the restroom, brush my teeth and put these back in, I’ll be right back.’” She even found that she’s not the only one, “I’ve gone into the restroom in nice restaurants and seen people literally brushing them over the sink and putting them back in! I’m like, yep, I’ve been there and it’s fine”.
Even popping into a diner on your own for a quick bite can have its perils, as Emma discovered, “Another time, I forgot to take my travel case out with me when I went to a diner. So, I put the retainer in tissue paper next to me at the table. I completely forgot about it, left it on the tray and then put the tray in the bin. That was a bit of a nightmare”.
3PM SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I?
When tempted by snacks and treats, Emma found it better to weigh up whether it’s worth the indulgence, “It’s so awkward. If you’re in the office and someone whips out some chocolate and you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’ll have one!’. Then you have to actually think, is it worth it? Because you have to go to the restroom and take it out”. But as Bethan says, there’s also a handy upside to not being able to snack so easily, “It totally stopped me snacking because I could not be bothered to take them out and brush them again between meals “.
7PM GETTING OUT AND ABOUT
When it comes to hitting the town, it pays to be prepared. Lost or broken aligners and retainers can be costly, “If you lose one of them, you are out of luck because the next one is moved more, and your teeth aren’t ready for that one – It could be an expensive mistake” said Emma. “I make sure I’m really aware of the retainer, I’m not too silly and I’m not going to lose it. That was always at the back of my mind”.
Planning which bag or pocket to keep your retainer case in is also a good idea, “Often I kept it on me because I was too afraid of leaving it in a bag that might get stolen or something like that and they’re quite expensive” Emma recalls.
The longer you wear your retainer or aligner, you can be more confident in knowing where you can be a little flexible as Bethan explains, “There’s always the flexibility of knowing that if one night there’s a barbeque, a birthday or a party where you don’t want to sacrifice, where you just want to be eating and drinking and having a nice time for 3 hours, it’s fine because over the next few days you just wear them for longer.” As with many things, it’s better to follow the advice to get the results you want. Just remember, everyone’s human and mistakes can happen.
If you’re a light sleeper, like Bethan, then some restless nights may be expected when first wearing an aligner or retainer. For Bethan these passed quickly, “I’m a poor sleeper anyway so the feeling of something new in your mouth was slightly disruptive for about a week and then your body just gets used to it really easily”. After switching to a night-time retainer following her treatment, things became even easier, “Wearing your aligner 22 hours a day and having to carry it with you everywhere you go, that’s where the challenges come in. But wearing a retainer only at night is so easy, you’re unconscious for most of it.”
For Emma, her simple night-time routine has kept things running smoothly, “When you get home again, you clean it and brush it and put it back in for the night. I would just wash it in the evenings, because it’s fully cleaned with a dental cleaning tablet in the mornings”. The only real night-time irritation Emma experienced was a dry mouth, “It’s a bit irritating to have a retainer in at night to be honest. You’re very aware of it, but you get used to it. I always have a water by the bed as it makes you very thirsty.”
Importantly, remember to wear your aligner or retainer as advised if you want it to fit properly, “Sometimes when I haven’t worn a retainer one night, the second night you feel the pull of it when you put it back in. It’s only for about an hour or two and it’s not hugely uncomfortable” Bethan recalls.
Despite all the adjustments they’ve made to their lifestyles, for both Bethan and Emma it’s all been worthwhile. We’d like to thank Emma and Bethan for sharing their stories and hope that you’ll find them useful.