Flossing With A Permanent Retainer: Here’s How To Do It 

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

Flossing is a vital part of dental hygiene, and it becomes even more important when you have a permanent retainer, which can be difficult to clean. So, how should you floss with a permanent retainer, and are there any alternatives to regular floss that you can use?

You can use regular floss to clean your teeth with a permanent retainer in. Other options include super floss (which is regular floss with a rigid end) or a water flosser, like the Waterpik. All of these methods are effective at helping you maintain good oral hygiene. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these flossing techniques so that you can choose the one you’re most comfortable with. At the end of the day, it’s less crucial which method you use; what’s most important is that you’re keeping your teeth and gums as clean as possible.

How Do You Floss With a Permanent Retainer?

Retainer for teeth

Permanent retainers prevent further movement of your teeth, typically after braces have been taken off. These types of retainers are the most effective, but they have to remain in the mouth at all times.

You may find it difficult to clean your permanent retainer because it’s fixed to your teeth. Permanent retainers tend to gather plaque, and cleaning them can be challenging.

Flossing is therefore especially important if you have a permanent retainer.

You can floss with your fixed retainer by using regular floss, super floss, or a water flosser. Each type of floss has different benefits, but you can use any of them with a retainer. 

How to Use Regular Floss With a Permanent Retainer

While you’ll have to adjust the movements slightly, you can still use regular floss — like this one from Oral B (on Amazon) — if you have a permanent retainer. Follow these steps when using regular floss to clean your teeth with permanent retainers:

  1. Curl your regular floss about 5 or 6 inches from its end. Then slip this curled floss between your teeth in a way that both ends of the floss are hanging out of your mouth. You’ll notice that the floss is still above your retainer. 
  1. Hold the ends of the floss and pull them downwards. You don’t need to apply much force when doing so. Simply pull lightly until the curled floss clicks under the fixed retainer. 
  1. You now need to let go of the floss from one end and slowly pull the other end until the loose end leaves the space between your teeth. You’ll notice that the loose end of the floss is set in a straight line under your tongue. 
  1. Now, use your fingers and tongue to pull the loose end of the floss toward the back of your mouth. When you’ve pulled the floss at the back, wrap it around your finger like you usually do while flossing.
  1. Once the floss is wrapped around both your fingers and is below your retainer, you’ll be able to clean it by moving the flossing up and down between your adjacent teeth. 
  1. To clean other teeth, lift the part of the floss that’s hanging out of your mouth, pull it up from the area you have already flossed, slide it to the next adjacent tooth, and pull it back down. 
  1. Clean all of your teeth with the same steps. 
  1. Once you’ve cleaned all your teeth, let go of the floss from one end and pull it out. 

If you don’t want to go through so many steps to floss your teeth or find it too difficult to use regular floss, try using super floss or a water flosser instead. 

How to Use Super Floss

Super floss (on Amazon) is made up of three components: a regular floss thread, a spongy floss, and a rigid end. This rigid end makes flossing between the teeth easier. Super floss is helpful in cleaning permanent retainers and the plaque along the gum lines.  

Initially, you may feel that it’s difficult to use super floss, but it’s quite simple once you get the hang of it! Here’s how to use super floss with a permanent retainer:

  1. Insert the rigid end of the floss between your teeth and guide it under your fixed retainers. 
  1. Pull the floss through, and the spongy floss (the middle part) will do the cleaning. 
  1. Then, use the normal floss thread to clean your adjacent teeth. 

It’s as simple as that!

While you can buy super floss from most places, including pharmacies or retailers, it’s a one-time-use product, and you’ll need a new piece every time. But there’s no need to worry since super floss isn’t expensive.

How to Floss Using a Water Flosser

Cordless water flosser

A water flosser is a device that uses a stream of water to clean plaque stuck between your teeth, gumline, and underneath permanent retainers.

One of the most popular brands of water flossers is Waterpik (on Amazon). With this device, you can easily adjust the pressure of the water blast to your liking. 

Be careful when using it, however, because water flossing can be a bit messy sometimes. 

Here are the steps for using a water flosser:

  1. Fill your device with water at a temperature you’re comfortable with. If you have sensitive teeth, lukewarm water is the best option.
  1. Select the pressure and bring the tip to your mouth. Turn on the device and close your mouth to prevent the water from splashing. 
  1. Direct the water stream to the areas of your mouth where plaque is accumulated. 
  1. When you are done, turn off the device. Don’t forget to clean it.

If you think that regular flossing is difficult and time-consuming, a water flosser is a great alternative. While they can be expensive and a bit messy, you don’t have to replace them every time you floss. 

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