In short: From the end of your floss, create a loop about six inches long. Let the two ends of the loop hang out of your mouth as you slide it over the two lower front teeth. When the floss loop snaps beneath the retainer behind the teeth, hold the two loose ends and pull them downward.
Flossing is an indispensable part of your oral care routine. Cleaning between teeth removes debris and plaque build-up that could lead to cavities or other gum diseases. Flossing is imperative while wearing a permanent retainer as it can help reach the areas that a toothbrush can’t. Read on to find a full breakdown on how to floss with a permanent retainer.
What Is a Permanent Retainer?
Once your orthodontic treatment is complete, your orthodontists will place a permanent retainer on the lingual surface of your teeth which in basic terms would be behind the teeth. It is a small wire that is connected behind the bottom front teeth.
In most cases, it sits behind four to six teeth. They aim to prevent the teeth from moving back into their original placement. Orthodontists can place lingual retainers on the upper teeth, lower teeth, or both.
Many orthodontists prefer permanent retainers because they work far better than removable ones. A study indicated that nearly 87% of orthodontists preferred life-long retention.
There are two kinds of permanent retainers:
- One that is bonded to the individual tooth
- One that is bonded only to the teeth on the ends of the retainers
A permanent retainer has many advantages like staying invisible behind the teeth, being durable, needing fewer follow-up appointments, and most importantly, not requiring you to remember to wear them. However, it can make the process of cleaning and flossing your teeth more difficult than removable ones.
Can You Still Floss With a Permanent Retainer?
Absolutely yes. It is possible to floss between your teeth with floss threaders or floss picks. Water flossing is also an option you could consider.
Flossing your teeth bonded with a permanent retainer might initially pose some challenges. You shouldn’t beat yourself up if you cannot get it right the first time. Like all new habits, this one will require practice and patience.
But once you have the right tools, the know-how, and the dexterity, you will realize it is relatively simple.
How Do You Floss With a Permanent Retainer On Top?
A permanent retainer is prone to breakage if not handled with care. It requires careful maintenance if it has to last long. Besides maintaining good dental hygiene by brushing thoroughly around the retainer, flossing every day is essential.
A permanent retainer blocks the floss from reaching below it. A floss threader will help you get your floss beneath the permanent retainer. A floss threader is a thin nylon loop that is pliable.
The act of flossing using a floss threader is akin to sewing. Just like a needle helps the thread pass through the fabric, a floss threader helps the floss reach your teeth and gums beneath the retainer.
Using a floss threader
- Pass the floss through a floss threader.
- Pass the stiff, pointy end of the threader between your teeth, below the retainer.
- Pull the threader fully through your teeth until the floss has passed under the wire. Now you can floss between the teeth as you usually would.
- If only your end teeth are attached to the retainer, then the floss only needs to be threaded one time. You may slide the floss along the wire for the adjacent teeth without rethreading.
- Each tooth must be threaded separately if your retainer is bonded to each tooth. Although this might seem cumbersome, it is vital to spend time attending to each tooth attached to the retainer. Once you are done, remove the floss. Continue until the threader has covered all teeth bonded by the retainer.
Floss threaders are a practical solution for your flossing problems. They are cheap and durable and, if washed after each use, can even be reused a few times. With practice, flossing with a threader should not take you more than a minute. They are readily available online or in a drug store.
Superfloss is a tufted strand of floss with a stiffened end that can easily slide under your permanent retainer, a spongy part to clean between wide spaces, and a regular floss to clean the gum line.
- Begin by threading the stiff end under your retainer and pulling to the part where the regular floss is
- Wrap the floss around the middle finger using your thumb and index finger to guide you
- Slide the floss between the teeth using the in and out and up and down movements
With Superfloss, you can skip the extra step of threading your floss through a threader before passing it between your teeth, making them quicker and easier than floss threaders.
The downside is that each piece of Superfloss can be used only once, so they will cost you more than floss threaders.
How Can I Floss Under My Permanent Retainer Without a Threader?
Water Flosser is the answer. A water flosser could be an alternative for those who are averse to using threaders to floss. It is an oral irrigator. It delivers a pressurized stream of water that can remove food and plaque when directed between your teeth and along the gums.
How to Use a Water Flosser
- Add warm water to the reservoir and connect it to the base
- Choose a tip according to your need. Water flossers come with tips for specific needs like plaque removal, orthodontics, cleaning periodontal pockets, etc. Please insert it into the handle
- Set the pressure control
- Bend over the sink. Turn it on. Partially close your mouth to prevent spattering
- Start with your back teeth. Aim the tip at your gum-line. The water will release into the sink
- Move along the gum line, briefly pausing between teeth
- Floss both sides of your teeth- front and back
- Floss for at least one minute after brushing every day
Water flossers might be the best option for children or teenagers who find using traditional floss troublesome. It is also recommended for people lacking manual dexterity or those suffering from periodontal problems like gum sensitivity.
But it is worth noting that water flossing is not a substitute for brushing. Water flossers are pricier than standard floss or threaders. It is not portable. It can be messy and may take time to get used to.
Wearing a permanent retainer means you are in for the long haul. So, choosing an option that works for you is best. Something that you can get habituated to easily. Whatever you choose, be consistent with your routine. Selecting one of the above methods means you are putting in the effort now for long-term dental health.
How to Floss With a Permanent Retainer? Can You?
Dr. Bill Redmond is a native of Southern California, the son of an orthodontist and the husband of a general dentist. That makes family gatherings pretty interesting…if you like teeth!