Hope you all had a good Christmas and are all prepped for the New Year. With most of this week off work I thought it would be a perfect time to blog about my ongoing retainer drama.
Believe it or not, I still wear both my upper and lower plastic (Essix) retainers at least one night a week. Although my surgery was over 5 years ago, I still suffer from muscular and nerve pain in my face, neck, shoulders and head. This is made worse when I do not wear my retainers at least one night per week. The retainers not only keep my teeth in position, but they also act as a vice holding everything neatly in line while I sleep.
When I initially put the retainers in, the lower ones always hurt and feel tight. A painkiller usually settles this down and I use a heat pad around my face to relax my muscles. Once I get off to sleep the pain subsides and does not return. When I take the retainers out in the morning they are rather disgusting, my teeth feel horrible and smelly, but both my face and teeth feel better for it.
A decade ago, wearing a retainer for more than a year or so after brace work was unheard of. But recent evidence has shown that the only way to 100% guarantee that your teeth won’t move and they remain straight is to wear a retainer once or twice a week or a fixed retainer indefinitely.
Do I have to wear retainers for the rest of my life?
It is a commonly known fact that the roots of your teeth are held in place by fibrous tissue that stretch and adapt while undergoing orthodontic treatment. Some of these fibres are moved and remoulded while undergoing orthodontic treatment. But not all stay that way. This means that the fibres that do not remould or stay in their new position try to spring back to their original positions. Thus, causing your teeth to move with them. Without braces or retainers to hold them in place, relapse can occur. Some people are lucky and their teeth do not move post-orthodontic treatment, but for most of us they do. I do not know about you, but I do not fancy going through any of this again.
So coming to terms with the fact you will have to wear retainers for the rest of life is a bit of a tough one. I do not like being reminded of my operations and it is hard to explain to new people why I have a jar in my travel bag that looks like false teeth. But there really wasn’t another viable alternative for me. While there are several options for retainers: Hawley, Essix and Permanent retainers, my only viable option was the Essix retainers. Hawley retainers made me gag and produce so much saliva I almost drown. And Permanent retainers restrict proper teeth cleaning. When I was young, Sidcup hospital took a lot of teeth out, much to my later orthognathic team’s dismay. This means that while my teeth are straight, I have larger gaps between them and I must floss and get them cleaned a little more often that the average person. This in turn means that a Permanent retainer was out of the question for me. On top of this, the last time I had a fixed appliance added to my back teeth, tissue grew over the metal and these had to be yanked out.
Cost of retainers
I have had my retainers now for 5 years and I have had them replaced by the hospital free of charge 2x. I have now been discharged for my orthodontist at Guy’s hospital, so if I needed a new retainer I would have to go to central London and pay £150 for each new retainer or £300 each at my local London dentist. A few weeks ago, right before Christmas my trusted bottom retainer broke. I have had this retainer for 4 years and it simply split in half. Ok I hear you say, no big deal. Well the problem was I had not worn my retainers for a couple of weeks previously because I was very unwell with sickness and Kidney issues. All in all I had not worn my most needed retainer for almost a month. My teeth were painful, my jaw was being pulled in a different direction and my neck muscles were in a right state. Working and living up in Essex and having a busy work load in the run up to Christmas meant I had little time or option but to try and source a local alternative and hope they were not £300 each.
After a quick Google search I found 2 local dentists who provide orthodontics and retainers. After emails and telephone calls neither got back to me. It was then I remembered one of REM’s clients Thaxted Dental now provided orthodontic treatment. After a quick email, I was provided with a quote for only £69. A whopping £81 cheaper than the hospital. I booked an appointment for the same week and was on my way.
Being the first time in 11 years since I let anyone touch my face, jaw or teeth, I was a little scared. I even cried before I went in. But they were lovely and really put me at ease. The impressions were taken first time and they used the correct size mould. Often the hospital try to use huge moulds that hurt my jaw and face and they end up getting the paste in my hair and all over my face. But Thaxted Dental were great and really knew what they were doing. I was so impressed I even booked myself a hygiene appointment for the end of January.
I received an email to collect my retainer the day before Christmas Eve and popped by before work to pick them up. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time before the Christmas break to book an appointment and I was really desperate to get my bottom retainer. In hindsight, it is always best to get the dentist or the ortho to fit the retainer and ensure it doesn’t rub or dig in anywhere. When I got home I realised the retainer had a few issues and was really tight. So, tight I almost couldn’t get it off again. It digs into my gum and it is quite low set compared to my hospital equivalents. The retainer itself is also quite a lot lighter and thinner than my previous hospital made ones. I am going back on Friday to have it filed down and adjusted.
In a panic and in agony on top of Christmas, I decided to try and put the two broken pieces of my old retainer into my mouth. Luckily, they fitted and they did not cut my tongue. I also booked myself for a hot stone massage at a beauty salon not far from my house. It was heavenly and I felt so much better after a massage, some pain relief and a good night with my retainers in. I have been wearing these on and off for the past few days as my teeth are really tender.
How to clean my plastic retainers?
This is a question I get asked a lot and I always couple this with some friendly general oral hygiene advice. When you first get your retainers you will have to wear them most of time and eating and drinking can become quite a chore.
While you are wearing the retainers continuously, please ensure you brush every couple of hours and avoid drinking anything that is not water while you wear them. When it comes down to wearing them of a night time only, this is when it becomes a lot easier.
So here is my routine for cleaning and inserting my retainers:
- Brush your teeth using an electric toothbrush using a standard toothpaste.
- Once complete, floss and follow up with a non-alcohol based mouthwash.
- (Optional): I then use a baking soda based toothpaste (e.g. Eucryl or Arm & Hammer) but you can use your general toothpaste.
- Simply brush your teeth again lightly moving your brush in circular movements around all your teeth. At this point you do not rinse your mouth out.
- Using a brush and a little dot of the same toothpaste, pick up your retainers and generally clean them. Rinse them under the cold water tap and place in your mouth.
- After you wake in the morning, remove the retainer, rinse under cold water and place into a cup or container. Thoroughly brush your teeth, floss and use a gentle mouthwash. Moving back to the retainer container, pop in some cold water and a Steradent tablet. Yes, the same type your nan uses for her false teeth. Leave the retainers to soak in the cold mixture for the rest of the day and rinse and brush again before wear.
After going through years of braces and surgery it seems silly not to look after teeth and ensure that you can enjoy your new bite and smile to the absolute maximum. If you do not regularly clean your teeth and retainers properly you will find your teeth will start to become translucent, stain and decay. Moreover, you retainers will need to be replaced more frequently and that can become very costly.
So, there you have it, a run down of my pre-Christmas retainer drama and my top tips on how to keep your retainers in great condition. I will be blogging more in the New Year and I look forward to speak with you all then.
In the meantime, wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Pain and Stress Free New Year and a prosperous 2017.