How to Floss with a Permanent Retainer

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential, and this includes proper care for permanent retainers. If you have recently had orthodontic treatment and now wear a permanent retainer, you may wonder how to effectively clean and floss around it. Here are valuable tips and techniques to ensure your oral health remains impeccable. Whether you’re new to wearing a permanent retainer or seeking guidance on the best flossing practices, get ready to discover the key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy while keeping your retainer in optimal condition. Let’s explore the art of flossing for permanent retainers and unlock the secrets to a confident, vibrant smile.

Why Is Flossing Important for Permanent Retainers?

Flossing is important for maintaining good oral hygiene, and this holds true for permanent retainers as well. Permanent retainers, also known as bonded or fixed retainers, are commonly used after orthodontic treatment to keep the teeth in their corrected positions. These retainers consist of a thin wire that is bonded to the back surface of the teeth, usually behind the front teeth.

While permanent retainers are effective at preventing teeth from shifting, they can present challenges when it comes to oral hygiene. The wire of the retainer creates small spaces or gaps between the teeth where plaque and food particles can easily accumulate. If these areas are not properly cleaned, bacteria can thrive and cause various dental issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

Here are some specific reasons why flossing is important for permanent retainers:

Plaque removal: Flossing helps remove plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. Plaque contains harmful bacteria that release acids, which can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities. By flossing, you can reach the areas that a toothbrush might miss, ensuring thorough plaque removal and reducing the risk of dental problems.

Preventing tartar buildup: If plaque is not removed promptly, it can harden and turn into tartar or calculus. Tartar cannot be removed by brushing or flossing alone but requires professional dental cleaning. Flossing regularly helps prevent tartar formation, which can contribute to gum disease if left untreated.

Gum health maintenance: When plaque builds up around the retainer wire, it can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to gingivitis or gum disease. Flossing helps remove plaque and reduce gum inflammation, promoting healthier gums and preventing potential gum issues.

Fresh breath: Food particles caught between the teeth can contribute to bad breath. By flossing, you remove these trapped particles and help maintain fresher breath.

Overall oral health improvement: Good oral hygiene is essential for overall dental health. Flossing in conjunction with brushing and regular dental check-ups helps keep your teeth and gums healthy, reducing the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral problems.

How to Properly Floss with a Permanent Retainer?

Flossing with a permanent retainer requires a slightly different technique compared to traditional flossing methods. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate through the process effectively:

Choose the Right Dental Floss

Selecting the appropriate dental floss is crucial for efficient flossing with a permanent retainer. Opt for a thin, waxed floss or a specialized orthodontic floss that easily slides between your teeth and under the retainer wire.

Start at the Gum Line

Gently guide the floss between your teeth and bring it down to the gum line. Be cautious while navigating around the retainer wire to avoid any discomfort or damage.

Use a Zigzag Motion

Once the floss is in place, move it back and forth using a zigzag motion to remove any debris or plaque accumulated on the sides of your teeth. Take your time and ensure thorough cleaning.

Floss All Teeth and Sides

Continue flossing between all your teeth, including those near the retainer wire. Make sure to clean both sides of each tooth by curving the floss around the tooth surface.

Rinse Your Mouth

After completing the flossing process, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water or an antimicrobial mouthwash to eliminate any remaining debris.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While flossing for permanent retainers is relatively straightforward, there are some common mistakes that people make. By being aware of these mistakes, you can ensure that your flossing routine is effective and beneficial:

Skipping Flossing

One of the biggest mistakes is neglecting to floss altogether. Remember that flossing is just as important as brushing your teeth, and skipping it can lead to plaque buildup and dental problems.

Using Incorrect Technique

Using the wrong technique can hinder the effectiveness of flossing. Make sure to follow the step-by-step guide mentioned earlier and consult your dentist if you’re unsure about the proper technique.

Being Too Rough

Flossing should be gentle to avoid causing any damage or discomfort. Avoid applying excessive pressure or forcefully pushing the floss against the retainer wire or gums.

Infrequent Floss Replacement

Regularly replace your floss to ensure optimal cleanliness. Over time, the floss can fray or accumulate bacteria, reducing its effectiveness. Replace it after every few uses or whenever it appears worn out.

Neglecting Other Oral Hygiene Practices

Remember that flossing is just one part of a comprehensive oral hygiene routine. It should be combined with brushing your teeth twice a day, using mouthwash, and maintaining a balanced diet to promote overall dental health.


Flossing for permanent retainers is an essential component of proper oral hygiene. By incorporating regular flossing into your daily routine, you can maintain the cleanliness of your retainer, prevent plaque buildup, and reduce the risk of dental issues. Remember to use the correct technique, choose appropriate dental floss, and schedule regular dental check-ups to ensure optimal oral health. With these practices in place, you can confidently enjoy the benefits of your permanent retainer while preserving your beautiful smile.


  1. How often should I floss with a permanent retainer? It is recommended to floss at least once a day with a permanent retainer to maintain optimal oral health and keep your retainer clean.
  2. Can I use a Waterpik instead of flossing with a permanent retainer? While a Waterpik can be a helpful addition to your oral hygiene routine, it should not replace traditional flossing entirely. Flossing allows you to physically remove plaque and debris, which is essential for maintaining healthy gums and preventing dental issues.
  3. Is it normal for my gums to bleed when flossing with a permanent retainer? Mild bleeding or slight gum sensitivity may occur initially when you start flossing with a permanent retainer. However, if the bleeding persists or intensifies, it is advisable to consult your dentist as it could indicate an underlying issue.
  4. Can I use an interdental brush with a permanent retainer? Interdental brushes can be an effective tool for cleaning around your permanent retainer wire. Consult with your dentist to determine if it is suitable for your specific case and learn the proper technique for using interdental brushes.
  5. Are there any alternative flossing methods for permanent retainers? Yes, there are alternative flossing methods available, such as floss threaders or orthodontic flossers, specifically designed for individuals with braces or permanent retainers. These tools can make flossing more convenient and efficient.