Wearing aligners or retainers can be a bit of a personal journey. You’ll need to learn what works best for you along the way, but you don’t have to struggle through. Why not ‘cheat’ your way to a better start with our life hacks! We asked two retainer wearers to share the retainer tips and tricks that worked for them.
“It’s very awkward. You do have to be quite organized when you want to eat, which is not very me – I found that quite irritating” discovered Emma.
If there’s a watchword for new aligner and retainer wearers, it’s ‘organize’. From eating to cleaning and working to socializing, living with a removable dental appliance requires some adjustment to your daily habits and routines.
LOVE YOUR RETAINER OR ALIGNER CASE
“I thought wait a second, where are my retainers!?” says Emma.
After taking them out of your mouth, the next place for your aligner or retainer is in the retainer case provided. You’re unlikely to get a spare aligner, but you can get several retainer cases.
“They give you a mouth guard case, so make sure you carry it. If you take it out and put it in tissue paper you’ll forget, but if it’s in a box on the table, you’re not going to forget about it” advises Emma.
POCKETS ARE YOUR FRIENDS
“I’m not someone who carries a bag, so I found that quite difficult – I’d have to give it to someone to hold” Emma recalled.
Once your aligner or retainer is in their appliance case, you’ll need to think about where to keep it when you’re out and about. If you carry a bag, you can keep it in there. If you’re worried about losing your bag, leaving it in a cloakroom or you just like to travel light, make sure you wear something with pockets. Or, at least, make sure you have a willing friend who does. You may find you need to plan a bit more creatively in the summer than the winter.
If you really have no choice and it’s only for a short time, then you may decide to leave your aligner or retainer at home. This is not ideal as it could disrupt your treatment plan. Just be prepared, because lost or broken aligners and retainers can be a real set-back.
“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” Bethan warned.
THE HEAD-SHAKE MANEUVER
“I’d go out for lunch and while everyone’s getting food, you’d have to find a restroom and sometimes you couldn’t” Emma remembers.
“Often I used to take it out for presenting, but sometimes you forget and you’re in meetings” recalls Emma.
There’ll be situations where you decide to take your aligner or retainer out, such as at a restaurant. While you’ll want to leave it in as long as possible, ideally, you’d plan to do this beforehand. But things don’t always go to plan. If you forget or if something unexpected is sprung on you, you may not have the chance to excuse yourself to find a quiet spot or restroom. But don’t worry. If you have no choice and have to take it out in front of others, there’s no need to be embarrassed. Be confident, take it out and pop it straight into your case.
“You just have to look away to take out your retainer” Emma advises.
TO SNACK, OR NOT TO SNACK? THAT IS THE QUESTION.
“What I’ve found helpful is carrying around this mini toothbrush in my bag all the time and using dental cleaning tablet” Bethan discovered.
If you’re a snacker or like your little treats between meals, then aligners and retainers come with a downside. You have to always brush your teeth afterwards. It may help to keep a small toothbrush accessible in your bag or pocket so you can quickly brush your teeth. Clearly, if you don’t want the hassle, then try to restrict your eating to specific times. This may happen naturally as you settle into your new routines.
“It totally stopped me snacking because I could not be bothered to take them out and brush them again between meals” says Bethan.
AVOID SUGARY DRINKS
“Sugary drinks are a bit of a no-go as that sugar gets stuck in your retainer and that erodes the teeth – so you want to avoid sugary stuff” recalls Emma.
Sugary drinks are not good to leave sitting next to your teeth inside an aligner or retainer. Water is the ideal drink, but after you’ve quenched your thirst and kept hydrated it can have limited appeal. Try finding sugar-free alternatives to dilute or substitute in your usual drinks, such as replacing tonic with seltzer or even water. They may taste strange at first, but once your taste buds have adjusted to having less sugar, you may even prefer it.
TIME IT RIGHT
“It is a bit embarrassing, I won’t lie. You don’t want to be seeing people you kind of know, like colleagues, while brushing your teeth – it’s quite strange. So, you give them a little smile, like yup yup” Emma remembers.
You’re likely to have to get used to doing some unusual things in public places, like brushing and cleaning your retainers in a public or office restroom. If you’re the type of person who may be embarrassed by this then you could try making some adjustments. See if you can work out a time when the restrooms are less busy and remember, it’s may be a bit unusual or embarrassing at first, but it’s not that bad.
“Just try to choose the times where it was a bit quieter I guess – and quickly do it” says Emma.
DENTAL CLEANING TABLETS COULD BE YOUR MUST HAVE ACCESSORY
“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” says Bethan.
If there’s one thing you’ll be doing a lot more of with an aligner or retainer, it’s oral hygiene. Whether it’s bad breath in the morning, trapped food particles or sugary drinks cleaning is a vital part of looking after your aligner, retainer and mouth.
Careful brushing and cleaning of your any removable appliance is repetitive and takes time and patience – both of which can sometimes be in short supply, especially as motivations wane. Polident Pro Guard & Retainer cleansing tablets are a convenient way to leave your retainer or aligner crystal clear. All dental appliances should be removed to be cleaned at least once a day, or otherwise directed by your dental professional. You can find out more about cleaning here and about specialist cleaning tablets here.
“These fizzy cleaning tabs were a lifesaver because they saved so much time you could just give them a quick brush and put them back in and they were clean” recalls Bethan.
PLACE A GLASS OF WATER BY THE BED
“Quite often at mouth I get a dry mouth. It makes you very thirsty and that’s annoying” Emma remembers.
If you get thirsty when wearing an aligner or retainer, then keep a glass of water by the bed. If you find you’re getting dry or chapped lips, then simply apply some lip balm or Vaseline before you go to sleep.
“I always a have a water by the bed. Sometimes I forget and it’s like, oh no!” says Emma.
“I have a long term boyfriend, so kissing is a little weird” Emma admits.
Okay, yes aligners and retainers may seem like a mood killer, but they don’t have to spoil that romantic moment. Depending on how comfortable you feel, you may find it easier to be open about needing to take them out. Even if you’re not ready to share that detail, then just find a quiet moment to take them out. Either way, most people wouldn’t mind – just remember to place them in the appliance case!
“I’m quite frank about it. Cool, nice normal people don’t care so that’s fine” says Bethan.