Caring For Your Retainers

If you’re sporting a beautiful new smile after all of that hard work you put into your braces or Invisalign® treatment, you’ll surely want to keep that smile for the rest of your life! But how do you do that?

To retain your smile, maintain your retainer. It’s a bit of a tongue-twister, but it’s true! If you take care of your retainer, it will take care of you.

When you’re wearing your retainer everyday, it’s important that you clean it everyday too. After all, there are over 6 billion bacteria in your mouth at any given time… yikes!

Here’s what you can do to take care of your retainer, and keep your smile bright and healthy for the rest of your life.

How to remove a retainer—carefully

When you remove a clear retainer, don’t pull it to one side or twist it with your tongue. Your retainer can be damaged, warped or misshapen by aggressive handling.

To remove your clear Essix retainer before cleaning it, gently loosen the retainer by using a clean pointer finger to hook the edge of the retainer toward the back inner surface of your teeth. Gently pull the retainer downward (or upward on your bottom retainer) and loosen both sides to ease it off carefully.

To remove your Hawley retainer, gently hook your clean finger over the wire loop toward the back of the retainer. Pull downward to free it from one side, then repeat the same motion on the other side. Don’t use your tongue to pull your retainer out, or push it into place!

How often should you clean your retainer?

We recommend you clean your retainer every time you clean your teeth… so hopefully twice a day. It’s a good idea to do a deep clean once a week, too, by soaking your retainer in a disinfecting solution. (Keep reading to learn about different soaking solutions!)

How to Clean Your Retainer

So what is the best retainer cleaner to use, and how do you use it?

You have a few options when it comes to retainer cleaners, including homemade cleaning solutions and specialized cleaners, to keep your retainer in its cleanest condition.

Cleaning Your Retainer Daily

When you wake up to brush your teeth, take your retainer out, rinse it off with lukewarm water and place it in its case. Brush your teeth, then use a separate soft-bristled toothbrush with non-abrasive toothpaste or mild soap to gently clean your retainer.

Harsh chemicals and active ingredients like the ones found in whitening toothpaste can damage clear plastic retainers and cause discoloration.

Be sure to use lukewarm water, not hot water, to avoid warping or damaging your retainer.

Don’t forget to clean your retainer case too. The last thing you want to do is place a clean retainer back in a dirty case. This defeats the purpose of cleaning your retainer, doesn’t it?

How to Disinfect Retainers with Vinegar

Vinegar is one of the most effective ways to clean a dirty retainer and remove hardened plaque. White vinegar is safe, and it’s something most people already have in their kitchen too!

Here’s how to clean retainers with plaque buildup:

Create a solution with equal parts water and vinegar, and soak your retainer for about 20 minutes.

Don’t put the retainer back in your mouth right away—unless you enjoy the strong taste of vinegar. Thoroughly rinse your retainer in lukewarm water, then you can pop it back in your mouth!

How to Clean Retainers with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile product with many uses around the house—including cleaning clear plastic retainers! Baking soda has the ability to disinfect and deodorize a dirty retainer.

Create a baking soda scrub by adding a teaspoon of baking soda to lukewarm water, and mix it to make a paste. Gently rub the solution on the retainer and scrub it with a soft toothbrush, then rinse the retainer under lukewarm water to remove the baking soda residue.

You can also soak a retainer in baking soda to eliminate odor-causing bacteria. Simply add a teaspoon of baking soda to a container of distilled water and mix it well. Soak the retainer for about 10 to 20 minutes before rinsing it with cold water.

Cleaning Retainers with Denture Cleaner

A lot of people wonder whether you can use a denture cleaner for retainers. The answer is, yes! It’s perfectly safe to soak a dirty retainer in a denture cleaner for about 10 minutes.

There are also brands like RetainerBrite and Polident made specifically for your retainer.

Always rinse your retainer first before letting it soak in the denture cleaner. When you take it out, give your retainer a gentle rinsing and scrub with a soft toothbrush.

The Bottom Line

If you commit to cleaning your retainer everyday, you shouldn’t have to worry about it becoming discolored, smelly or bacteria-ridden.

When you’re entering the retention phase of your orthodontic treatment, your orthodontist will tell you everything you need to know about keeping your retainer in its best condition, so you can enjoy your smile for a lifetime!

Still have questions about caring for your retainers?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! We love to hear from you. We’re here to guide you through your treatment process, from your very first visit, to your last appointment.

If you’re looking for a top orthodontist in Northwest Florida, we’d love to meet you! Request a complimentary exam for you or your child today.