It’s a big moment – after months or years of wearing braces you’ve finally received your retainer from your orthodontist or dentist. So what are your next 2 steps? Wear it and maintain it. But how? We’ve got some advice on how to keep your retainer clean.
How can I keep my retainer clean?
Keeping your retainer clean and fresh is an important part of your oral hygiene routine. Below are some helpful tips and tricks on how to make sure your retainer lasts as long as possible, and stays squeaky clean through daily wear.
1: Clean your retainer regularly.
Keeping your retainer clean is imperative when it comes to ensuring that it works effectively and so your oral health isn't negatively 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.
Fixed or bonded retainers should be flossed daily. Using a 6-inch piece of floss, move it under your retainer wire, bringing it up and down between the teeth, all the way to the gum line (and below the gum line if possible). Then slide the floss sideways to the next area to be cleaned. Repeat the process with each tooth that is attached to your permanent retainer.
2: Heat is not your (retainer’s) friend.
Your retainer is a marvel of modern engineering, but it’s still a piece of plastic that will warp if exposed to heat. Leaving your retainer on your car’s dashboard on a hot July day (oops) or in your mouth when you sip on that hot drink could warp your retainer and render it useless.
Since your retainer is custom-made to precisely fit your mouth, any warping will result in it becoming misshapen and less effective at holding your teeth in place. So, always handle with care – and clean only with warm water, never hot.
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.
You may want to set an alarm on your phone when soaking your retainer if you do use cleaning tablets (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 can be a double-edged sword. You can take them out to eat, which makes eating easier, but if you tend to be absent-minded, you could find yourself losing your retainer, or leaving it at risk of getting dirty or damaged.
Your retainer comes with a case to prevent all that. Use the case diligently to avoid mishaps.
6. Replace as needed.
Just like anything else, retainers have a useful lifespan. Over time they may become loose and not fit your teeth as snugly as they once did, or calcium builds up and begins to impact how the retainer fits, despite your best efforts at cleaning.
When these things happen, it’s time to get a new retainer. Your dentist or orthodontist 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 happen. Retainers can become lost, damaged in the scenarios mentioned above, or just worn out. Because getting a new retainer takes some time, you’ll want to keep a spare one on hand to use in the meantime to prevent your teeth from shifting (especially a danger in the first few months after your braces are removed).
Do you have questions about cleaning and maintaining your retainer?
Your dentist or orthodontist will be happy to help and can provide you with helpful tips and advice to keep your retainer in tip-top condition.