How to Floss With Permanent Retainer

Are you unsure of how to floss with permanent retainer? In this article we are going to teach you all the best practices when it comes to maintaining your oral hygiene while getting your teeth straightened with a permanent retainer.

Keeping your retainers clean and free of sediment buildup is one of the biggest challenges that come with wearing permanent retainers, as they make it difficult to floss in the usual way using threaders. And as if this weren’t enough, food particles can all too easily get stuck in the retainer wire when you eat.

For this reason, it can be very tempting to slack when it comes to your dental hygiene, but of course this is a bad idea and can lead to a lot of damage in the long term, and long term is precisely how you should be thinking about your teeth. 

So, are you ready to learn how to floss with permanent retainers in your mouth? All right, let us dive right in.

The importance of cleaning behind the retainer wire

Because you cannot remove a permanent retainer when it is time to eat, you will inevitably accumulate plaque faster than if you were wearing removable aligners, such as Invisalign or SmileDirectClub aligners. 

It follows that the importance of cleaning behind your permanent retainers cannot be overstated. While it is tempting to shy away because of the sheer difficulty of it, you are not doing yourself any favours.

Keeping your teeth, and the spaces between each tooth and the next tooth, free from plague buildup and food particles is essential if you want to avoid bad breath, tooth decay and ultimately gum disease.

How to keep teeth with permanent retainers clean

When your permanent retainer is freshly installed, the thought of keeping your teeth clean with brushing and flossing like you normally would can seem like an impossibility – but the truth is that it simply takes a little getting used to. 

To make things as clear and easy as possible, here is a run-through of the different methods used for flossing while wearing permeant bonded retainers.

Regular floss + floss threaders

Yes, it is possible to use regular floss to clean your teeth while wearing permanent retainers, at least if you are using floss threaders.

Floss threaders are small plastic needles designed to direct floss beneath the metal wire of a fixed retainer as well as between the teeth. When manipulated carefully, a floss threader is able to get a piece of floss under the wire and between the teeth. Once you have gotten one end through to the other side, slowly pull the piece of floss to remove plaque and any food debris that may have become stuck between your teeth, or between your teeth and the wire.

Super floss

Super floss is essentially floss that comes pre-cut to make it easier to navigate it in between your teeth. Each piece of super floss also has a small piece of plastic bonded to one of its ends, giving it a bit of weight and making it even easier to navigate and use.

A piece of super floss works much in the same way as a piece of regular floss combined Wirth a floss threader.

Interdental brushes

If you have larger gaps between your teeth, interdental brushes are easier to use than floss, super or not. Interdental brushes are essentially tiny tooth stick sized brushes, made to fit in the gaps between teeth.

Water flossers

Finally, using a water flosser is a great idea, if you are willing to splurge on one of the high-end models. 

The hallmark of a great water flosser is high water pressure, which cleans the teeth without any implements and without risking any damage to the teeth or the permeant retainer.

Flossing with a permament retainer FAQ

Can flossing break a permanent retainer?

Yes, in some cases flossing your teeth can cause your permanent retainer’s metal wire to break. There is no way to prevent this, other than abandoning regular floss in favour of water flossers and floss threaders for as long as you are wearing your permanent retainer.

If your permanent retainer breaks while flossing, you should contact your dentist right away and make an appointment to get the wire replaced. Do not even think about trying to do this yourself – your orthodontic treatment could easily take a wrong turn if not handled by a dentistry professional in possession of the proper expertise.

How do you floss with a permanent retainer?

There are several different ways to floss with a permanent bonded retainer. Which method suits you best is going to depend on how many adjacent teeth your retainer is bonded to, as well as what you personally find easier.

While it is possible to floss your teeth with normal floss even while wearing fixed retainers, doing so is not easy. If you want to clean your teeth using just a piece of floss, it requires a bit of space between the teeth for the piece of floss to pass through. Let us say, for this example, that your permanent retainer is bonded only to your lower teeth and is only attached to the two teeth at either end of the retainer wire. In this scenario, the teeth between the two end teeth are not actually attached to the retainer, which should make it possible for you to slide in a piece of floss and thread it through your teeth. Once should be enough to catch any removable plague. Use super floss, which essentially pre-cut pieces of floss, for added ease.

Water flossing is another good addition to your details routine, although you should invest in one that pumps water with enough force to actually be effective – there are simply too many water flossers on the market that are not sufficient. Yet another way to floss involves floss threaders, which are little plastic needles that can be carefully manoeuvred in-between each individual tooth to remove plague and food particles. If your teeth are slightly more gapped, it might also be worth considering interdental brushes, which are very small brushes which come in different sizes and are designed to brush between the teeth.

How do you clean your teeth under a permanent retainer?

There is more than one way to clean your teeth under a permanent retainer. 

Start by brushing your teeth as you normally would, then move your attention specifically to the teeth being aligned with permanent retainers. You can choose to use floss threaders, a water flosser, regular floss, soft picks, or interdental brushes – you can even use a combination of these to clean behind your permanent retainers.

How can I floss under a permanent retainer without a threader?

You do not have to use a floss threader to clean the teeth behind your permeant retainer. While this is often the easiest and most effective option, there are several other options including regular floss (use super floss, which has been pre-cut, if you want to make things a little easier for yourself), interdental brushes, or a water flosser. 

Can a dentist take off a permanent retainer?

Yes, a dentist or orthodontist who has received the proper training is able to remove a permanent retainer once it wears out or you simply decide to get rid of it. A dentist with the right expertise will also be able to replace the retainer wire if needed, or to make any other adjustments your teeth require along the way.


We hope that this article has shown you how you can keep your teeth clean and free of plague buildup that may lead to tooth decay and gum disease, even and perhaps especially while wearing a permanent bonded retainer.

We know that cleaning your teeth with a permanent retainer can seem like more of a chore, and that it invisibly requires more time and effort than if you weren’t wearing permanent braces – but cutting corners when it comes to your oral hygiene and health is never worth it, and fortunately, there are many different ways to effectively clean your teeth while wearing permanent retainers.

It is also worth keeping in mind that, should you find yourself getting completely fed up with the time and effort that keeping your teeth clean demands, there is always the option of making an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist to get your permanent retainer removed, in which case you could replace it with clear, removable retainer instead.

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