Sometimes, the harder something is to do, the more important it is just to grit your teeth and do it.
Flossing around a permanent retainer — that fixed wire that is installed behind lower teeth once the braces are removed — falls in that “just do it” category. Ignoring your dentist’s advice in this case can lead to gum inflammation, puffy tissue, bleeding and bone loss.
The Reason Behind the Retainer
Normal flossing is not difficult, but many people still “forget” or simply don’t follow professional recommendations to floss regularly. So, it’s completely understandable that flossing, when it is admittedly more complicated and time-consuming, is ignored as a part of daily routine. Those who have permanent retainers will no doubt confirm that “it’s a pain” to floss above, around and below that little wire. It is bonded to the inside surface of those lower front teeth, though, and it must be cleaned. Not doing it can cause an even bigger pain.
The consequences of not following your orthodontist’s advice can be much worse.
Although it’s not common, neglecting that flossing around a fixed retainer can result in losing those bottom teeth due to infection, gum disease and bone loss. We think it would be a shame to have to talk about implants when all you wanted was straight teeth!
That little stabilizing wire is there for a reason. It holds your newly realigned teeth in place. It is designed to supplement the bone and surrounding tissue to keep those ivories where they belong in your gums. Corrective orthodontia is a process. It takes time; it requires patience. It’s also not inexpensive, and you don’t want to waste the time or the money spent on braces.
Why Is It So Hard?
The truth is that the fixed retainer may be a more or less permanent fixture across those four or six lower teeth. Although it is much less obtrusive than your former braces, it performs an important function, and you should expect it to remain in place for a period of many months at minimum, and perhaps for years. The primary benefit of a fixed retainer is that it’s there; you can’t lose it or forget to wear it.
Because that wire is bonded to the inside surface of the lower set of teeth, it is impossible to “slice” through it with ordinary floss used in the ordinary manner. A special implement known as a floss threader — it looks something like a small sewing needle with an eye to thread the floss through — is the only way to assure that you reach the parts of the teeth and gums that are below the wire. And, as you know, flossing is best way to prevent cavities from forming between the teeth and to remove calculus at the gumline.
You will still need regular professional cleanings, at least every six months, and the retainer itself must be checked regularly to be sure it continues to perform its required function of keeping teeth in line. The wire can stretch, twist, break or become dislodged around one or more teeth. If the wire is defective, your entire straightening procedure may be jeopardized. If you experience problems, don’t ignore them or try to pull the wire free on your own. Always seek professional help.
What Alternatives Exist?
As with all dental procedures, there are alternatives. You will want to thoroughly discuss those options with your primary care dentist as well as with your orthodontist. If a fixed retainer has been installed on a child’s teeth following braces, discussing the problems and talking honestly about options may reassure you that the extra maintenance and flossing efforts are worthwhile. If you wore braces as an adult, perhaps changing out the fixed wire for a removable retaining device is a more sensible solution. Only you and a trusted professional can make the proper decisions for your individual case.
At Briglia Dental Group, we are committed to family dental care, and we agree that the fixed retainer is difficult to clean and floss. Food particles and plaque can easily be trapped by the wire. If you find it difficult to deal with a fixed retainer and would like to discuss your concerns, our trained staff will be happy to offer some additional advice. We can demonstrate the best ways to clean around it and under it. If you have questions about the value of sonic flossers or toothbrushes, please just ask. We are always interested in helping you achieve optimum oral health.
We would like to avoid — and we’re sure you agree — the need to deal with bone loss or rehabilitate unhealthy gums around those bottom teeth. It is much better to apply an extra measure of preventive care to keeping that fixed retainer clean and in tip-top shape.
We Help You Care For and About Your Teeth
At our practice, we are aware that healthy teeth are a vital component of overall well-being, and we are dedicated to helping all our patients, from young children through senior citizens, achieve all their goals for strong, healthy teeth and gums and beautiful smiles. Our range of services extends from routine exams and periodic dental cleaning to repair and replacement of damaged teeth and cosmetic enhancements.
For more than 30 years, we have been providing quality dental care to residents of West Chester and the surrounding area. Why not contact us to schedule a preliminary exam. Call us at (610) 692-4440 or feel free to schedule your appointment here Let’s see what we can do for you. We’ll show you how much we care.