Wearing a retainer is important to keep your teeth in place after they've been adjusted with braces. In general, wearing a retainer is a lot easier than wearing braces, but you may still run into some challenges from time to time. Here are a few of those challenges, along for some advice for solving them.
Challenge: Losing your retainer.
This is perhaps the most annoying challenge that retainer wearers come across. You are able to take your retainer out prior to eating, so you do — but then you can't figure out where to put it! A good solution to keep you from losing your retainer is to invest in a case. The bigger and brighter the case, the better, since then you'll be able to spot it from afar. Carry the retainer case with you everywhere, and put your retainer inside as soon as you remove it. Never wrap your retainer in a napkin. Not only does this make it easier to forget or leave behind, but it also leaves shreds of napkin on your retainer.
Challenge: Your retainer smells.
Maybe you smell the retainer's odor when you take it out, and perhaps it even has a bit of a noxious taste when you first insert it. The bad smell and taste come from a lack of cleaning. If you are not already brushing your retainer every day when you are removing it, you need to start doing that now. Also, soak the retainer in a cleaning solution at least once a week. Twice a week is even better. You can make your own cleaning solution by mixing a few capfuls of hydrogen peroxide into a glass of water. Drop your retainer in, and let it sit for a few hours.
Challenge: You've been getting cavities since you've had your retainer.
You've had your retainer for a few months now, and when you showed up for a dental checkup, they told you that you had a cavity. This may or may not have anything to do with your retainer, but just in case it does, there are a few things you can do to help protect your teeth. Always remove the retainer before brushing so that you are better able to brush all the surfaces of your teeth. Also, follow the instructions above to keep your retainer cleaner. It could be harboring bacteria, which, when placed against your teeth, contribute to cavity formation.
Challenge: Your retainer is bent.
Has your retainer become bent or broken in any way? It can be tempting to try and bend it back on your own, but this is a very bad idea. If you adjust it even slightly improperly, it may push your teeth back into a bad spot, or it may rub on your cheeks and tongue. Take the damaged retainer into your orthodontist, and they can repair it for you. In the worst case, you may need a replacement, which can be more costly -- but it's worth the money on the long run since it keeps your teeth aligned and beautiful.
Challenge: Your retainer is causing you pain.
If your retainer is causing you pain, there are a few possible explanations. It may have bent without you realizing it, or your teeth could have moved out of alignment, requiring the retainer to put more pressure on them than it should. In either case, you need to see your orthodontist to ensure nothing sinister is going on. They may adjust your retainer or simply recommend that you take some pain relievers until the discomfort is calmed down.
To learn more, talk to your orthodontist. They have helped other patients deal with the challenges of retainers, and they can help you, too.