It’s a big moment – you’ve made it through months or years of wearing braces, and you’ve received your retainer from your orthodontist. Your next 2 steps: Wear it. Maintain it. But how? We’ve got some advice on how to keep your retainer clean.
How can I keep my retainer clean?
Maintaining a clean and fresh retainer is an important part of your oral hygiene routine. Here are some pointers to make sure your retainer lasts as long as possible and stays squeaky clean during daily use.
1: Clean your retainer regularly.
We know it’s not news to you that these retainers are on your teeth, so it’s imperative to ensure they stay clean so they work effectively and so your oral health isn't impacted by a dirty retainer.
Removable retainers can be cleaned with lukewarm water following each meal. For a deeper clean, try mixing the water with mild dish soap. Do not use toothpaste to clean your retainer, as its abrasive qualities can scratch its surface, and scratches are the perfect spot for bacteria to hide.
Daily flossing is recommended for fixed or bonded retainers. Move a 6-inch piece of floss under your retainer wire, up and down between the teeth all the way to the gum line (and below the gum line if possible). The floss should then be moved sideways to the next area to be cleaned. Repeat the procedure for each tooth attached to your permanent retainer.
2: Heat is not your (retainer’s) friend.
Though you may enjoy a hot summer day spent at the beach or a hot tea on a cold winter’s day, your retainer won’t. In addition to debris getting stuck in your retainer in these cases, leaving it out in the heat can render it useless.
Though your retainer is a modern engineering marvel, it is still a piece of plastic that will warp if left on your car's dashboard on a hot July day (oops) or in your mouth while sipping that hot drink. Because your retainer is custom-made to fit your mouth perfectly, any warping will cause it to become misshapen and less effective at holding your teeth in place. So, always handle with caution - and clean only with warm, never hot, water.
3: No harsh chemicals are needed.
You can forgo harsh cleansers and chemicals when cleaning your retainer and simply clean it using the dish soap/water combination mentioned above.
If you are worried about bacteria such as Streptococcus, which cause strep throat, chemical cleaning tablets can be used to kill these. Otherwise, your routine soap and water should suffice.
4. Soak only as long as required.
If you use cleaning tablets, you should set an alarm on your phone while soaking your retainer (ask your orthodontist how long you should soak your specific retainer brand, or check the packaging on the tablets).
It can also be soaked in mouthwash to keep it smelling fresh - just mix in an equal amount of lukewarm water. And only soak your retainer in mouthwash occasionally if the mouthwash contains alcohol.
5. Store your retainer in its case
Removable retainers are a two-edged sword. You can take them out to eat, which makes eating easier, but if you are easily distracted, you may lose your retainer or leave it at risk of becoming dirty or damaged.
Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.
6. Replace as needed.
Retainers, like everything else, have a useful lifespan. They may become loose and no longer fit your teeth as snugly as they once did, or calcium may build up and begin to affect how the retainer fits, despite your best cleaning efforts.
When these things happen, it’s time to get a new retainer. At Orthostyle, we can create an impression of your teeth and have a brand new retainer made for you.
7. Remember to keep a spare retainer on hand.
Mishaps occur. Retainers are lost, damaged, or simply worn out in the scenarios described above. Because getting a new retainer may take some time, you should keep a spare one on hand to prevent your teeth from shifting in the meantime (especially a danger in the first few months after your braces are removed).