After months, or even years of orthodontic treatment, it’s pretty exciting to finally get the braces removed and transition to a retainer. Some people think of their retainer and think of it as ‘optional’ or something you can slack off with, but we’re here to tell you–don’t do it! Wearing and caring for a retainer is the final but essential piece of your orthodontics that helps maintain the beautiful, aligned teeth that you’ve invested so much in.
Dr. Cserna at Pioneer Orthodontics has seen it all at her practice, and can’t tell her patients enough how important it is to not only wear but also clean your retainers! Don’t let the investment go to waste, and keep your mouth and teeth healthy for as long as possible by wearing and cleaning your retainers every day.
Why is Retainer Cleanliness so Important?
First things first, if your goal is to wear your retainer every day as Dr. Cserna suggests, would you be as inclined to wear it if it was stinky and dirty? Probably not! Keeping your retainer clean makes it easier to follow through on your commitment to wearing your retainer as instructed, and maintaining those straight teeth.
Another good reason to keep your retainer clean is bacteria. Because your retainer will spend a lot of time in your mouth, they are prone to all the same bacteria and plaque that grows there naturally. That’s why you brush your teeth every day, and the same goes for your retainer!
When not cleaned regularly, the bacteria that is transferred from your mouth to your retainer can grow, calcify, build up as plaque, and more. Cleaning your retainer is about avoiding possible infections and just keeping your mouth clean overall. You’ll feel so much better about regularly wearing your retainer when it feels clean and comfortable, and you know you aren’t transferring gross bacteria in and out of your mouth.
Tips to Keep Your Retainer Clean
There are a few rules of thumb for how to keep your retainer clean that will be true regardless of which kind of retainer you are using. This is especially for removable retainers like the plastic Essic retainer, or the acrylic and metal Hawley retainers that you put in and take out regularly.
Just like with your teeth, your retainer needs regular brushing to get rid of the food particles that collect, and the invisible bacteria that can grow into plaque and tartar. We recommend rinsing and brushing immediately after removing your retainers to avoid saliva drying onto them, making it more difficult to clean later.
Don’t Use Hot Water
Hot water can warp the plastic or acrylic tray of your retainer, making it ill-fitting or even ruining it completely. Instead of hot water, we recommend rinsing in lukewarm water.
Use a Reserved Toothbrush and Avoid Toothpaste
Once you’ve taken out your retainer and rinsed it well, it’s time to give it a good scrub. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush that you don’t use to brush your teeth to avoid cross-contamination. This is because you don’t want to use toothpaste on your retainer. Most toothpaste brands include tiny abrasive properties that are great for scrubbing teeth but can damage retainers with micro scratches, making them more susceptible to bacteria growth.
Use a Gentle Cleanser
Instead of using toothpaste, you should use a gentle cleaner to scrub the retainer. We recommend either an alcohol-free mouthwash or even just hand soap. Both of these have bacteria-killing properties that won’t damage your retainer. Scrub well on all sides of the retainer, and then rinse. If using soap be sure to rinse extra well to avoid a soapy mouth later.
Soak in a Cleaning Solution if Needed
The steps above are really all it takes to keep your retainers clean on a daily basis! If you notice, however, that your retainer is looking a little dingy, even after cleaning, or has a white build-up, don’t worry. It’s really normal for a retainer to need a deeper clean every now and then. We recommend soaking your retainer in a solution meant for dentures! These solutions are safe to use on retainers and can help loosen build-up that you scrub clean with your toothbrush after.
If you have a fixed retainer instead of a removable one, your approach to cleaning will be a little different. Fixed retainers are unique because they are made of metal wires that are cemented onto your teeth permanently They are convenient for many reasons, being invisible on the inside of your teeth, and not needing to remember to take them in or out, or losing them. Cleaning is also convenient!
When you are doing your normal daily brushes, give your retainer a little extra love, using your soft-bristled brush to go all around the retainer. Angle the toothbrush up, down, and around the wire to get out any remaining food particles. When flossing, use a floss threader to guide the floss underneath the wire, and then continue flossing as usual. With this little added effort, you can keep your teeth and retainer in great shape indefinitely!
We are Your Orthodontic Team!
The great news about retainers is that you’ve got an entire team of professionals behind you! Dr. Cserna and her crew are ready to support your questions and problems, or if you’re considering orthodontics for the first time. Connect to our team at one of our offices in Lincoln or York!