Tips for Keeping Your Retainers Clean

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
June 4, 2019

A young woman smiling while reading Spirit Dental's tips on how to keep retainers clean on her phone.

Retainers are great because they help you retain your beautiful new smile after you’ve used braces. However, they can get pretty funky from sitting in your mouth for extended periods of time, so keeping them clean is imperative.

What are some of the easiest ways to ensure your retainer will always be as clean as possible? We’ve compiled a list of tips below to help you get started, but if you have any questions about the very best methods for keeping these dental products bacteria-free, consulting with your dentist or orthodontist is recommended.

First Off, What Type Are You Using?

To effectively keep your retainer free of plaque, tartar, and bacteria, you need to clean it based on the type of retainer that you’ve been given.

  • Hawley: This removable retainer, which is molded especially for your unique mouth, is used after your pearly whites have been straightened with the help of orthodontics. Made of metal and plastic, you do need to be careful with it, as it could be damaged by impact or heat.

To wash it daily, don’t rinse it using hot water. Instead, use a soft-bristled toothbrush, making sure to be gentle as you work on removing food particles. Regular toothpaste isn’t recommended, as it’s too abrasive, so just use the brushing action and lukewarm water.

Beyond that, you can soak it on a regular basis in a denture cleaner. And, after you disinfect it, you should store it in a case to protect it until you need to wear it again.

  • Essix: This retainer, or clear aligner, is constructed of plastic that’s transparent, so it won’t be as obvious in your mouth while it covers your chompers. Like a Hawley, an Essix is removable, it’s molded so that it’ll perfectly fit your mouth, and it might be necessary after you’ve undergone orthodontic treatment so that you can maintain your straight smile.

Only need to wear your Essix during the night? Then simply rinse it thoroughly with some cold water prior to putting it into your mouth. Then, when you take it out the next morning, just rinse it the same way again.

However, if you do wear it while you eat, you should gently brush it with a soft-bristled toothbrush and lukewarm water after every meal (don’t use toothpaste, and don’t use hot water). That’ll help ensure it doesn’t sit in your mouth with food particles stuck to it, which would be yucky. And, on a regular basis, you can even use a special cleanser to deeply disinfect this retainer.

Side note: Whether you have a Hawley or Essix, washing it right after you take it out of your mouth can be easier because it will still be wet from your saliva, so the debris won’t have a chance to harden. When brushing these retainers, you can also get a deeper clean by mixing together some mild dish soap and lukewarm water.   

  • Fixed: Also known as a bonded retainer, a fixed retainer will sit permanently in your mouth, so it won’t be removable. It’s typically used when the risk is high that your teeth will end up shifting, and it might need to be in your mouth for years.

To keep it hygienic, daily flossing will be necessary. You can get a floss threader to make the process easier, and it’s a great idea to ask your orthodontist for expert advice on how to do it right. It might take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of things, you’ll be able to keep this retainer super clean.

Some Other Things to Remember

  • Retainers don’t like heat, so don’t expose yours to boiling water, a dishwasher, or a microwave, as a few examples. Sure, you can cleanse and disinfect other common items with heat and hot water, but your retainer isn’t one of them. Lukewarm water is best.
  • Soak your retainer in some mouthwash to help remove bacteria and freshen it up. Mix equal parts lukewarm water with alcohol-free mouthwash for a quick soak that lasts a few minutes.
  • A basic brushing routine might be all that you need to keep your retainer nice and clean. So if you want to avoid the use of chemical based solutions, you certainly might be able to. Just be diligent when it comes to brushing and flossing your teeth, as well as rinsing and brushing your retainer daily. However, if you’ve been sick, such as with strep throat, you might want to use a special cleaner to kill the bacteria so you could help reduce the odds of reinfecting yourself
  • Use warm water and soap to wash your retainer’s case and remove any bacteria that might be lingering there as well. Dry thoroughly before using it again.

Note: If you start noticing things like cloudiness, white spots, or a film on your retainer, or if it has a nasty taste or smell, these are signs that you need to perform a more intense cleaning.   

Fresh Mouth, Spotless Retainer, and Straight Teeth!

Your retainer will help you achieve the perfect smile that you want, so take good care of it! Wash it every time you brush your teeth, and give it a deeper cleaning regularly, such as weekly.

For additional guidance, have a chat with your orthodontist about how to keep your retainer spotless. You can even ask about natural solutions, such as baking soda and white vinegar, that would be appropriate for your type of retainer. Also, if there’s debris on it that you can’t seem to remove on your own, it’s time to take it to your orthodontist, who has special solutions on hand.

With the right technique, tools, and routine, you can rest assured that your retainer will always be sanitary and won’t contribute to the development of oral health problems like cavities or gum disease. And with the right orthodontic dental insurance, your orthodontics treatments won’t break the bank, so be sure to check out some of the Spirit plans that are available today!



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