Your orthodontist will give you guidelines and instructions that you should follow on how to clean your retainers. If you don’t clean your retainers and take good care of them, they will not last you the expected time they should, and you will need to replace them sooner.
Of the many things that individuals want to know when they are thinking about their retainers, one is how to make sure that they are taking care of them. Proper care of your retainers is absolutely essential to maintaining this important part of your orthodontic treatment.
This leads many individuals to ask questions about what is needed to care for their retainer such as how to clean a retainer? What are some of the best ways to clean a retainer? How to clean your retainer without accidentally damaging it? Is there a difference in knowing how to clean a plastic retainer versus how to clean Hawley retainers? What about how to clean metal retainers? Is clean retainer something I can do myself? Or is retainers cleaning something I should bring to my orthodontist? What do I need to know about how to disinfect a retainer? And once they are clean, how to store retainers properly so that they will stay clean?
Before answering the questions, it is important to note that you may be able to use inexpensive and available household products to clean your retainers. Household products like white vinegar show antimicrobial and anti-tartar properties with its acidic features and is a reason why it is used to clean prosthodontic dental devices (Akgün, F A et al.,2019).
How often should I clean my retainer?
One common question that is asked often is how important are clean retainers? The simple answer is cleaning retainers is an important part of maintaining your proper oral health. In fact, these things are in your mouth for most of the day apart from meals and brushing time and as such they can get just as dirty as your teeth. They may build up food and saliva, and they can become a breeding ground for bacteria, as well as contributing to halitosis, bad breath, and a whole host of other considerations. This is why it’s absolutely essential to make sure that you keep your retainers of all types clean.
Cleaning retainers is not very difficult but it is something that needs to be done on a regular basis. A very good rule of thumb when it comes to clean retainers and how often to do it is to clean retainers as often as you clean your teeth. Every time the retainer comes out of your mouth for eating, brushing, or anything else, that is the time that you should take the opportunity to clean your own retainer. By cleaning your retainer as often as you brush your own teeth you will make sure that it stays in tip top shape and helps keep your mouth fresh and your teeth looking beautiful.
Something many individuals are surprised to learn is that cleaning retainers is actually quite easy. In fact, there are multiple ways of mechanically and chemically cleaning retainers to remove the microorganisms that have accumulated on them (Akgün, F A et al.,2019).
Whether they are a Hawley retainer, plastic retainer, or metal retainer, in the vast majority of cases, the way that you’re going to end up cleaning them is to simply do so in the way that you would clean your teeth with brushing.
There are important things to remember when it comes to taking care of your retainers when you’re cleaning them. One main point is that mechanical methods should be combined with chemical cleaning for optimal results (Akgün, F A et al.,2019).
What does chemical cleaning mean? You can use either a regular toothpaste, a small amount of baking soda, or one of the commercially available retainer cleaners. These work a lot like denture cleaners, in that you drop a tablet into warm water and then add in your retainers. The solution and the fizzing action help to get your retainers clean. Then just rinse off and put back in your mouth!
Other things to keep in mind include:
Soft bristle toothbrush
Yes! Toothbrushes are not just for teeth anymore! They are in fact the best way to clean retainers of all types. However it’s important to make sure you use the right type. Using a stiff bristle toothbrush on your retainers may cause problems. Depending on the stiffness of the brush, it can cause micro scratches or abrasions that can not only be uncomfortable for you to have in your mouth but can also lead to build up of bacterial growth, make it more difficult to clean in the future, potentially make it uncomfortable to wear, or simply just make it scratchy. It is best to use a soft bristle toothbrush as a soft bristle toothbrush will not adversely affect the materials they are made from while still providing that cleaning action that you need. This is true for all kinds of retainers.
Warm water is also important as part of the best way to clean retainers. Warm water can help with cleaning away any plaque, build up, or bacterial growth that might have occurred inside your retainers while they’re in your mouth. However, it is absolutely essential that you never use hot or boiling water. Retainers of all types are susceptible to extreme heat but especially any retainer that utilizes plastics. This is true for plastic containers as well as the Hawley retainer.
Individuals who use boiling water to clean these retainers or even very hot tap water can find that the retainer has warped out of shape. This is incredibly difficult to fix in nearly every case and result in needing to get a new retainer which will be an extra few hundred dollars, depending on the type of retainer or the plan that you are on. This is why it’s important to make sure that when cleaning you do so correctly and in the correct way. Improper cleaning can damage your orthodontic appliance and make it so you have to pay to get a new one and unexpected costs are never any fun to bear.
Metal retainers that are affixed to your teeth need special flossers to get around them. Because they are affixed, they can be a little tricky. You can ask your orthodontist or dentist which ones they recommend, but most any grocery store or drug store will have orthodontic flossers available to help get those particles out from around your retainers and keep them clean.
Storing your retainer is also incredibly important. Proper retainer storage can make sure that you do not lose retainers, make sure they are always available, and make sure that they stay sterile and clean. Remember this is something that’s going to be going in your mouth on a regular basis and so making sure it is clean is important to keep down any kind of cross contamination or potential introduction of harmful substances into your mouth.
This is why many individuals carry a retainer case. Retainer cases can often be recommended or even gotten through your dental orthodontic office and are ideal for carrying your retainers. Not only are they often brightly colored which helps individuals remember them and not forget when they take them out for eating a meal but they’re also small enough to be stored conveniently in pockets, bags, purses, and anywhere else where an individual may need to store their retainers temporarily.
That not only helps ensure that your retainer does not get lost with its bright colors and it’s noticeable size, but also ensures that individuals do not bend, warp, or break the retainers by simply tossing them in a pocket or leaving them out where they might get stepped on or things set upon them.
Protecting your retainer from damage or loss is an important part of maintaining your proper oral health. You fought hard to get that beautiful smile and to make sure it stays you need those retainers to retain the stunning smile you have achieved.
Akgün, F. A., Şenışık, N. E., & Çetin, E. S. (2019). Evaluation of the Efficacy of Different Cleaning Methods for Orthodontic Thermoplastic Retainers in terms of Bacterial Colonization. Turkish journal of orthodontics, 32(4), 219–228. https://doi.org/10.5152/TurkJOrthod.2019.19061
IVANOV Orthodontic Experts, 12866 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181
Call us at (786) 540-1919 to schedule a free orthodontic exam.
What Are Clear Aligners Invisible Trays?