The Starling Orthodontics Team

Cleaning and Caring for Your Retainer

Your retainer plays an important role in maintaining your amazing smile after your orthodontic treatment is done. Retainers keep your teeth in the best position possible for a dazzling smile and healthy bite. 

A clean mouth and a clean retainer mean healthy teeth. Throughout your day, bacteria build up on your retainer to cause bad breath and a foul taste in your mouth. If you don’t remove the bacteria, it can accumulate to form biofilm, which is a sticky substance that holds the bacteria to the surface of your retainer, teeth and gums. Dental plaque is a type of biofilm that is bad for your oral health; it can harden into tartar that can lead to gum disease, gum infections, tooth decay and tooth loss. 

Clearly, cleaning your retainer is important, and so is taking good care of your retainer. A neglected retainer can dry out or warp, which can change the shape of your retainer. A distorted retainer can be uncomfortable to wear, and it can even affect how well your retainer holds your teeth in their proper position. In fact, your teeth may even begin to drift back to where they were before you got braces. 

How to Care for a Retainer

Keep your retainer moist

Retainers must remain in a wet environment - allowing them to dry out can cause them to age prematurely. Tartar and biofilm love to cling to the dried-out surface of a retainer, increasing your risk for gum disease and tooth decay.

When you take out your retainer, submerge it in liquids. Distilled water is better than tap water, as the minerals in tap water can promote the formation of plaque on your retainer. Add some baking soda or a squirt of castile soap for extra cleaning power.

How to Clean a Retainer

Rinse your retainer

Run cool or warm water over your retainer. Avoid rinsing your retainer in hot water - while heat can kill bacteria, it can also warp your retainer.

Create a paste with water and baking soda

Nighttime retainer care should include disinfecting your retainer. Baking soda is a safe, all-purpose disinfectant that controls bacteria without harsh chemicals. Bacteria thrive in acidic environment; baking soda neutralizes acid. Baking soda can also freshen your breath.

Create a paste that is half baking soda and half water - the paste should be thick enough to stick to your retainer. Gently scrub your retainer with a soft-bristled toothbrush then rinse thoroughly. Make a fresh batch of baking soda paste each time you clean your retainer.

Soak your retainer in white vinegar

White vinegar removes bacteria. Once a week, soak your retainer in white vinegar for about 15 minutes then rinse and soak in distilled water.

Avoid these methods 

When it comes to cleaning and caring for your retainer, knowing what to avoid is as important as what to use. Avoid the following:

  • UV sanitizers
  • Hydrogen peroxide - can damage the acrylic in your retainer
  • Dishwashers
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothpaste
  • Boiling water
  • Bleach
  • Rubbing alcohol

Think twice about using a retainer cleaner or tablets. Your retainer is made from porous material that absorbs anything it is exposed to - whatever you soak your retainer in becomes a part of your retainer. When you put your retainer back in your mouth, you also introduce the cleaning products into your body. 

Mouthwashes and boiling water may dry out or warp your retainers, which may cause an uncomfortable fit and even allow for the buildup of plaque on your teeth and gums.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your retainer. Hard bristles can gouge the surface of your retainer, creating nooks and crannies where bacteria can hide, reside and multiply.

Take your retainer to your dentist

If it feels like your retainer has more buildup than it should, or if your retainer just needs a good cleaning and disinfecting, bring your retainer into our office. We have an ultrasonic cleaner and solutions that disinfect and remove any buildup on your retainer.

For more information on cleaning and caring for your retainer after orthodontics, consult with Starling Orthodontics. From Incognito® lingual braces to many other treatment options, our orthodontist in Brentwood, TN, offers the best solutions available for your entire family.

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