How to Clean Dental Retainers Safely Without Destroying Them
Cleaning your retainer is easy and can be done with products you have around your house. Gently scrub with a dedicated toothbrush and you are set.
Congratulations! You got your braces off! Now you have your new tools to help keep your teeth straight while everything finishes settling into place – your retainers. Let’s take a little time to learn how to best clean your retainers safely, and also some things you should never do to care for your retainers. We’ll also call out things you can do to help keep your Invisalign clear aligner trays clean and healthy.
Let’s start by first learning about the three types of retainers:
- The classic removable retainer is being called a Hawley retainer. They are plastic or acrylic with a few wires placed in just the right places. These retainers are crafted to exactly fit your teeth and are the kind you think of when you think of people who wear a retainer.
- Clear aligners like Invisalign go over your teeth and work to move your teeth just like braces, only clear. They are easily removed and easily cleaned.
- Fixed retainers are affixed to your teeth and as the name says, are affixed and cannot be removed. The best thing to do to clean these is to use a water irrigation device and see your dentist regularly to keep the teeth around them clean.
Cleaning your retainers the right ways
Now let’s focus on some great ways how to clean retainers.
Some methods are going to use commercial cleaning products that are easily available at your local supermarket or pharmacy, and others are complete DIY stars.
Commercial retainer cleaners
First, let’s start with the commercial methods how to clean retainers. A commercial retainer cleaner works by killing bacteria and therefore the odor that comes with them. You will still need to brush your retainers to actually get any of the plaque or film off of them.
- There are cleaning solutions you can find like Retainer Brite Cleaning Tablets, Dental Duty, and Cleanguard. You simply drop the tablet in warm water and let it fizz, then drop in your retainers and let them soak for about 5 minutes. The solution will disinfect your retainers – and your Invisalign – and help ensure you keep your healthy mouth.
- Eversmile Whitefoam and OAP are easily available on Amazon and they come in a handy spray container.
- Kleene is a concentrated solution that you mix with water and then soaking your retainer in that solution cleans them.
Portable ultrasonic cleaners are also available, particularly from online retailers like Amazon. They do great work at getting your retainers really clean, especially Invisalign trays. Ultrasonic cleaners work by using sound to create motion in the water and that motion helps to scrub your retainers until they are nice and clean.
Home retainer cleaners
And now for the DIY ways of how to clean retainers. One of the advantages of these retainer cleaner methods is you probably already have most if not all of them in your medicine cabinet right now.
- One of the biggest things you can do is to rinse them off right after you remove them in tap water. This will help keep them cleaner all day and improve dental hygiene.
- You can also make a paste of baking soda and water, then apply it to your retainers and let them sit for five minutes before rinsing. At the end of the day, every day, you should use warm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush to give your retainers or Invisalign a good scrub to remove any bacteria lurking in the corners and crevices.
- It’s very important to use a soft brush to avoid scratching the surface of your retainer, which then can become a breeding ground for bacteria. You may also want to use a cotton swab if the brush is not getting into the corners well. This brush should also be separate from what you use for your teeth, and you should take it to school or work with you for an after-lunch clean-up.
- Now here is a method you might not think of right away – castile soap. Soap? Yes, soap! It’s not your typical soap made with hard chemicals. It usually has a vegetable oil base with essential oils for fragrance and it is a lovely gentle cleanser that won’t dry out your retainer. Add just a little bit to warm water, and then let your retainer soak for about two to three minutes in the solution before scrubbing with your toothbrush. Then just rinse and put it back in your mouth.
- Hydrogen peroxide is another great cleaner and bacteria killer. Mix it in a very diluted solution of 1 part peroxide to 30 parts water. It is often used as the base for tooth bleaching products, hence you will want to use it in dilution. Soaking your retainer in this solution for about 30 minutes, then rinse and put back in your mouth.
- Plain white vinegar is one of nature’s best cleaners. You can mix it with equal parts warm or cold water then let your retainer or Invisalign soak for about 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse. If you feel like it still tastes like a pickle, brush gently with your retainer toothbrush and it should remove all of that vinegar taste.
With any of these methods, be sure to rinse well! You don’t want to taste that salty soda wash or worse, the chemical fizzes.
Then, put your retainer back in! If you aren’t actively cleaning it, be sure to keep your retainer in your mouth so it can keep working and so you don’t lose it. Also, if your retainer dries out, it may end up damaging the device and developing a biofilm so you would need to get a new one.
If you live in an area with really chlorinated water or heavy minerals live in your water, you should think about using distilled water to rinse with. You can fill up a glass and take it to the bathroom to use for cleaning, but don’t drink it.
Should you notice a film form on your retainer that you can’t brush off, let your dentist or orthodontist know and get their medical advice. It is the same stuff that forms tartar on your teeth and they have the right equipment to remove any of that gunk.
A big thing you can do to make sure your retainers are really clean is to be gentle but thorough.
What not to do for cleaning retainers
And now, a brief word about what not to do for your retainer.
- Don’t use toothpaste! It is meant to be abrasive on your teeth to help get all that stuff off of your hard enamel. Your retainers are a softer plastic and they can be damaged by all that abrasion.
- Don’t use mouthwash since it can dry out your retainer, and as we discussed above, that can lead to them having to be replaced, which is not cheap. If you have to use mouthwash, find one without alcohol in it, then dip your retainer in for just a couple of minutes before rinsing and brushing.
- Don’t use a denture cleaner. Dentures are artificial teeth, so as you can imagine, those cleaners are going to be too harsh for your retainers, and they can also change the color of the retainer, which for Invisalign means they are no longer clear.
- Don’t use bleach or other things you would use to clean around your house. They can be toxic to ingest and they are also too harsh to use on retainers which since they are plastic, might absorb some of those chemicals. Plus, they may dry out your retainers.
- Boiling water might sound like a great idea, but that hot water can soften the plastic and make your retainer lose its shape and therefore no longer fit correctly. This can be really bad for Invisalign that has to work precisely in order to move your teeth into the correct positions.
- And, there are urban legends out there that say that soda pop is a great cleaner. Perhaps on the chrome bumper of your dad’s old car, but all that acid and sugar will not do your retainers any favors. In fact, bacteria in your mouth love to feed on sugar – that leads to that sticky icky plaque on your teeth that you brush off every day as part of your dental hygiene.
A note about cleaning fixed retainers
If you have fixed retainers, also called permanent retainers or bonded retainers, you need to be sure to brush your teeth regularly and floss as much as you can. A floss threader can help get the floss under the retainer wire so you can clean that area out. Then just repeat for each tooth where the fixed retainer is attached. If you are struggling a bit, you can always ask your dentist for help. He or she will be delighted to help.
As we’ve seen, it’s not hard to know how to clean retainers. Keeping your retainer clean is one of the most important things you can do to make sure it lasts and that it can keep doing the job of holding your teeth in place after your orthodontic treatment. Just remember – use soft cleaning products and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Keep your retainer from getting dried out. And be sure to ask your orthodontist if you have any questions about how to keep your retainers clean.
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Call us at (786) 540-1919 to schedule a free orthodontic exam.
Learn more about The Disadvantages of Deep Cleaning Teeth Treatment at https://ivanovortho.com/disadvantages-deep-cleaning-teeth/