Cleaning A Retainer

cleaning a retainer with a toothbrush after learning how to clean a retainer

Cleaning and maintaining a retainer is a crucial part of wearing one. Now that your teeth are properly aligned thanks to your braces or Invisalign® treatment, wearing a retainer will keep them in alignment.

But failing to clean your retainer can cause dental problems that would require further care and could possibly ruin the smile you spent a lot of time and money to attain.

Cleaning a retainer is so important that Ricci Orthodontics offers the following guide for you to develop or improve your cleaning routine.

Your beautiful smile is priceless. The journey began once you made the life-changing decision to straighten your teeth. Now that you’ve finished the treatment with your new Invisalign® clear aligners or another orthodontic treatment method, it’s time to keep your teeth in perfect alignment for years to come. Otherwise, your teeth may revert to their pre-alignment state. Maintenance is important, and cleaning a retainer is a routine that you should establish early on.

Why Cleaning a Retainer is Important

If your retainer is not clean, your teeth won’t be clean either. Even if you brush and floss your teeth regularly, neglecting to clean the retainer properly allows the accumulation of plaque and bacteria that will spread to your teeth as soon you put the retainer back in your mouth.

At this point, you are susceptible to tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, discoloration, and other dental problems. The retainer can also be more difficult to remove since plaque buildup creates a layer on the inside, making the space tighter around your teeth and gums. Your retainer should feel fresh, comfortable, and durable at all times. The only way to keep it that way is to clean it regularly and thoroughly.

A sticky plaque residue can also develop on your retainer. This thick substance is an accumulation of debris that stains the retainer. Keeping it that way degrades performance. It also becomes difficult to remove when you try to take it out quickly. Therefore, when cleaning your retainer, do so as often as you brush your teeth. Be proactive on a daily basis to keep your retainer fresh, bacteria-free, comfortable, and durable.

Your retainer is designed to keep your teeth in alignment. If you fail to wear it because it’s irritating your mouth due to neglect, your teeth will simply shift back into their original positions. The last thing you want to do is to have to repeat your braces or Invisalign® treatment when it’s so much easier to just keep your retainer clean.

Listen to Your Orthodontist on Cleaning a Retainer

Your orthodontist may have given you special guidance on cleaning your specific brand of retainer. Always elect to follow your orthodontist’s instructions for cleaning a retainer over other recommendations. For you, that medical professional may be the closest source within the dental industry. That trained expert hears about trends and breakthroughs on how to clean a retainer. In addition, your orthodontist is the one with first-hand knowledge from patients. Just like you, they’ll let the orthodontist know about any successful results from the retainer-cleaning steps they’ve tried.

Furthermore, your orthodontist knows your teeth and mouth better than you do and will have a better idea of what will and won’t work for you. For example, if you were a model Invisalign® patient who responsibly and consistently kept up with your treatment, your orthodontist will likely elect to give you a removable retainer. If you could not handle removable aligners, however, and had to wear braces instead, a fixed retainer is probably best for you.

Cleaning a Retainer if it is a Removable Style

Cleaning a retainer

Apart from the instructions given to you by your orthodontist, there are steps you can take to clean removable and fixed retainers.

Let’s begin with removable retainers.

Take the following steps to clean removable retainers:

  • After removing your retainer from your mouth, rinse it under warm water for a few seconds.
  • Cleansing your retainer twice a day is usually sufficient. Use castile soap, which is vegetable oil-based. It’s less harsh than other soaps.
  • Take a toothbrush with a soft bristle and brush off the food bits and plaque from the retainer. A cotton swab is great for getting into those tiny creases that a brush can miss. NOTE: If your dentist recommends using a retainer cleansing solution and ultrasonic machine, do that instead.
  • Rinse under warm water and then place the retainer back inside your mouth or into its case and fill the container with distilled water.

For yellowing retainers, you’ll need to apply a different technique. Pour two tablespoons of baking soda into a small bowl, and then add a few drops of water to form a paste. Dip your soft bristle toothbrush in the mixture, and then gently scrub the retainer.

Other techniques

Maybe you don’t have what you need above to clean your retainer at the moment. If that’s the case, there are other methods.

  • You can use non-whitening toothpaste for children, which is less abrasive.
  • Soak your retainer in denture cleaner for about 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly. You should not rely on this option since it can discolor your retainer over time.
  • Use half water and half baking soda solution to create a paste thick enough to stick to your retainer. Then scrub it gently with a soft toothbrush and rinse. Baking soda controls bacteria without harsh chemicals and can prevent pH imbalances from developing.
  • Soak your retainer in half warm water mixed with half white vinegar for 20 minutes to get rid of odors and residue buildup. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub if necessary. Rinse well afterward unless you like the taste of vinegar.
  • If you are really desperate, you can use mouthwash. However, it’s not ideal.

Cleaning a Retainer if it is the Fixed Type

Cleaning a retainer

Be sure to brush your teeth daily. Since the permanent retainer is fixed by being attached to your teeth, you’ll need to use an interdental brush and dental floss to clean between each tooth.

Otherwise, the plaque will lodge and can result in gum disease.

Use both cleaning tools because the floss will clean in between the teeth and retainer.

Meanwhile, the interdental brush cleans the small spaces located near your gum lines.

  • First, visit your orthodontist to determine which size interdental brush is best for you
  • Floss, then use the interdental brush
  • Brush your teeth to remove the debris

Flossing tips

Flossing can be the most frustrating part of your retainer cleaning routine, but it’s especially important to prevent plaque buildup. Floss threaders can be helpful because they pass a piece of floss under your retainer, allowing you to grab the floss on the other side so you can properly floss in between your teeth. Repeat the process as necessary.

In addition, Oral-B Super Floss is also ideal for cleaning under your retainer and between your teeth.

Do Not Skip Professional Cleanings

The best way to keep your fixed retainer clean is to regularly keep up with visiting your orthodontist for a professional cleaning. Your orthodontist will be able to thoroughly clean your teeth and your retainer using special tools designed to reach every nook and cranny where bacteria and plaque can hide and are hard to reach with just a regular toothbrush and floss.

Things to Avoid Before You Try to Clean a Retainer

Your retainer is at least partially made of acrylic plastic. When cleaning a retainer, that material can warp if you use harsh chemicals such as Pepsi Cola and other soda beverages. In addition, extreme heat can damage your retainer by causing it to reshape into an ill-fitting device. Whatever method you use for how to clean a retainer, avoid using boiling water to sanitize it.

You should also never use bleach to clean your retainer. Bleach is harmful if consumed and can damage your retainer. Don’t use regular toothpaste either since it contains abrasive ingredients. A baby toothpaste is preferable.

Ricci Orthodontics Believes in Your Smile

We hope you’ve found these steps on how to clean a retainer helpful. You can find out more by visiting our Georgia office. At Ricci Orthodontics, we specialize in servicing the dental needs of the residents in John’s Creek and the surrounding areas, including:

  • Alpharetta
  • Buford
  • Cumming
  • Duluth
  • Norcross
  • Peachtree Corners
  • Sugar Hill
  • Suwanee

Some of our orthodontic treatment services are:

Cleaning a retainer correctly prolongs the investment you’ve already made in straightening your teeth. To learn more, contact us at [Direct] to set up an appointment today. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about how to clean a retainer. We look forward to meeting you and giving you the premium orthodontic service you expect.

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